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article imageGoogle and Facebook accused of using 'dark patterns'

By Tim Sandle     Jun 29, 2018 in Technology
Facebook, Google and Microsoft direct users away from selecting privacy-friendly options, according to a new report. Recommendations are made to make selecting stronger privacy setting easier.
The review into the privacy settings of the big three technology companies, each with a strong social media presence, comes from the Norwegian Consumer Council. This report goes so far as to call the practices of Facebook, Google and Microsoft as unethical. The report is titled "Deceived by Design: How tech companies use dark patterns to discourage us from exercising our rights to privacy."
The report was issued in order to assess the impact of compliance with the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), when all businesses operating with the European Union were compelled to make adjustments to their privacy settings. The review took place before and after the GDPR ruling took effect. For more on GDPR, see the Digital Journal article: "Still worried about GDPR? Expert provides advice".
In concluding that the three companies only provide users "an illusion of control", the report accuses the tech companies of creating a series of so-called "dark patterns" that create barriers to achieving more straightforward privacy setting. This includes intrusive default settings coupled with misleading wording.
An assessment of the report by the BBC finds a number of examples where the "illusion" is apparent, including privacy-friendly choices being hidden away; take-it-or-leave it choices; privacy-intrusive defaults with a longer process for users who want; and pop-ups compelling users to make certain choices, while key information is omitted or downplayed.
Facebook is particular is called out in the report as not doing enough to promote user data privacy: "Facebook gives the user an impression of control over use of third party data to show ads, while it turns out that the control is much more limited than it initially appears."
In response to the report, spokespeople from Facebook, Google and Microsoft have restated their commitment to GDPR and user data privacy.
More about Privacy, privacy settings, Facebook, Google
 
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