Dark patterns in consent statements

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Dark patterns are design nudges that steer peoples’ behaviour in an unconscious way through persuasive interface design. Increasingly found in privacy consent statements, they possibly undermine principles of the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the EU, which aim at giving users control over their personal data, assuming that people engage in consent statements in a rational and deliberate manner. This online study (N = 228) investigated whether three of the most common dark patterns (default, aesthetic manipulation, obstruction) lead users to choose a privacy-unfriendly option over a privacy-friendly one, even if the latter one is rationally superior. Further, it was examined if the aforementioned dark patterns decrease users’ perception of control over their personal data in consent statement situations. Although the majority of participants always chose the privacyunfriendly option and reported a lack of control over their personal data, we did not find clear support for this being due to the design nudges. Using mixed-effects modelling, only obstruction showed a marginally significant effect in the expected direction on the consent decision. Regarding perceived control, again only obstruction displayed a significant effect, however, this time in the opposite direction as expected. Overall, our findings support the notion that the current consent model does not work as intended and give insights into why this might be the case. Keywords: dark patterns; privacy; design nudges; GDPR; consent statements
Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen