What are deceptive patterns?

Deceptive patterns (also known as “dark patterns”) are tricks used in websites and apps that make you do things that you didn't mean to, like buying or signing up for something. For example:

Trick wording



What laws govern the use of deceptive patterns?

Many types of deceptive pattern are already illegal in the EU and US, depending on the type and context of use.

In the EU, the UCPD, GDPR, DSA and DMA help ensure a fairer internet for users

In the USA, the FTC act, ROSCA, and CAN-SPAM are major federal laws that pack a punch

What legal cases have been won against deceptive patterns?

Businesses that use deceptive patterns are often caught up in legal cases and get hit with big fines and penalties.

Epic Games paid $245 million to settle charges that they were using deceptive patterns in Fornite’s payment system

Diet app Noom paid $62 million to settle charges that they were using deceptive patterns in their subscription and auto-renewal practices

AT&T paid $105 million to settle charges that they were adding unauthorised fees for services onto customers' phone bills, without their knowledge or consent

Who uses deceptive patterns?

We've collected over 400 examples in our hall of shame. The most commonly complained about companies are Google, Facebook, Amazon and LinkedIn. Others include:

HP - ink cartridges that stop working when users cancel their subscription

AT&T - alternates the meaning of on and off in their email preferences page

Skype - tricks users into uploading their address book

Where can I learn more?

Deceptive patterns ("dark patterns") are a rapidly growing area of research, particularly in the fields of Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and Law. We've put together a big reading list for you to get up to speed. For example:

Dark Commercial Patterns - OECD Digital Economy Paper

Behavioural study on unfair commercial practices in the digital environment - European Commission report

Dark Patterns: the case for regulatory pluralism - Dr M. R. Leiser

Who runs this site?

This website (formerly darkpatterns.org) was founded by Dr. Harry Brignull, and is now run in collaboration with a group of expert legal scholars:

Dr. Mark Leiser

Dr. Cristiana Santos

Kosha Doshi