Regulators eye tech tricks that hurt consumers

 Regulators eye tech tricks that hurt consumers

Tech companies, subscription apps and e-commerce sites have for years used subtle tricks to nudge people toward a decision or purchase they might not otherwise make. There’s even a name for the tactics: dark patterns.

Now, a crackdown may be coming.

Members of Congress, consumer protection agencies, nonprofit watchdog groups and academic researchers have all announced plans this year to increase the scrutiny they give to dark patterns, laying the groundwork for possible legal action and promising to bring more clarity and fairness to how people navigate the internet.

The tactics in question are likely familiar to anyone who’s used a web browser or a smartphone: the extra hoops to jump through to cancel a subscription, a poorly worded question that leads to an avalanche of unwanted emails or a sign-up process that requires extra work to turn on privacy features.

“They’re trying to use emotional blackmail or coercive techniques to try…

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