There is a rapidly growing literature on dark patterns, user interface designs—typically related to shopping or privacy—that researchers deem problematic. Recent work has been predominantly descriptive, documenting and categorizing objectionable user interfaces. These contributions have been invaluable in highlighting specific designs for researchers and policymakers. But the current literature lacks a conceptual foundation: What makes a user interface a dark pattern? Why are certain designs problematic for users or society? We review recent work on dark patterns and demonstrate that the literature does not reflect a singular concern or consistent definition, but rather, a set of thematically related considerations. Drawing from scholarship in psychology, economics, ethics, philosophy, and law, we articulate a set of normative perspectives for analyzing dark patterns and their effects on individuals and society. We then show how future research on dark patterns can go beyond subjective criticism of user interface designs and apply empirical methods grounded in normative perspectives.
The ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (https://chi2021.acm.org/)