Smartphones (for Stupid People?) – A Quick Summary on Dark Patterns

in deepdives •  7 months ago

When using cell phones nowadays there is a problem everyone should know about, its called dark patterns. I was familiar with the feeling these dark patterns conveyed before I knew them by name, as it’s been something that’s kept me away from smartphones. In fact, until recently I didn’t know what a dark pattern was, that is until I stumbled across a white paper on a website called Cryptome.

The paper I’m referencing: Deceived by Design was created by the Norwegian Consumer Council (AKA Forbrukerrådet) and published on June 27th, 2018. The document reveals tactics big tech companies deploy against people. They do this to persuade their user base to give up the maximum amount of privacy with the least amount of psychological pain.

How do they do it? Great question you! I’m so glad you’ve taken an interest in these nefarious dark patterns. Just imagine you and a friend are having a debate on where to eat dinner. Your friend pulls out a coin and says: "Heads I win, tails you lose, call it in the air!" and they give the coin a flip.

You don’t know it yet, but they have put you on the spot with a dark pattern. You don’t have the time to think about it because the coin is already airborne. So, you quick blurt out an answer, it’s your friend, and you’d rather not have to have them flip again, that'd be rude, right? So you drop all objections and make the call.

The problem is, no matter which selection you make you’ve already lost the coin flip. If heads lands facing upwards, then they will say they won. If tails lands facing upwards, they will say you lose. It is a trick of the mind meant to convey an illusion of control.

The idea is you may get to decide where you will go to eat after the coin toss, but the fact of the matter is that you had no control based on those terms and that is the essence of the dark pattern.

The video below shows someone using a similar dark pattern.


In the corporate world, they use dark patterns all the time to push us and pull us in various directions. Advertisements will use the carrot and stick approach to manipulate our decision making. Be afraid of the flu and get this worthless vaccine. Or, check out these half-nude very attractive people, you like sex don’t you? Well, if you buy this, you can increase your ability to attract so-and-so into your life, etc. etc.

We know that commercials and advertisements manipulate our behavior, it's on par for the course and we learn to become more careful in our decision making. We also know these advertisement companies will mislead us in any way they can, just so that we’ll pull out the credit card, and hand over those digits.

In this brave new world, advertisers use cell phones and computer operating systems to give them a leg up on selling you their products. So one might find themselves in a position where they have a cell phone or a computer with a free operating system. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase "if you're not paying for the product, you are the product."

It’s a very accurate saying, as the various free operating services will allow you to use their product on the condition they can harvest your data and use it for selling ads. They will trick you into giving up your privacy and sometimes they’ll do this by creating an illusion of privacy. The entire topic goes into great depth and there are more techniques than you can shake a stick at.

I will not highlight every tactic these companies are using as the intention of this post is to whet your appetite to the point where ‘dark patterns’ have become a demystified concept. If you now find this topic interesting, feel free to download the document and read all about the various techniques. I strongly suggest you avoid falling for these dirty tricks.

The image above is brought to you courtesy of Pixabay!

Click here to download the .pdf called 'Deceived by Design.'

Authors get paid when people like you upvote their post.
If you enjoyed what you read here, create your account today and start earning FREE STEEM!
Sort Order:  

Hi! That's a very interesting piece about the dark patterns. Great to have a "label" to go look for to see more about it :)

I really hope many more will stop being glued to the smartphone! It damages us in soooo many ways, physically and mentally!

Great work, I resteemed and upvoted it :P


Hi! That's a very interesting piece about the dark patterns. Great to have a "label" to go look for to see more about it :)

I'm glad you have a label for it now!

I really hope many more will stop being glued to the smartphone! It damages us in soooo many ways, physically and mentally!

I agree, I found it particularly devious how they buried in the fine print the fact that you're not supposed to use a smartphone as if though it's a phone by pressing it to your face. They did this to limit the liability they'd incur for not warning about the radiation dangers.

Great work, I resteemed and upvoted it :P

Thank you so much @movingman!


😊 I watched a couple of vids on it lastnight, the trickery is amazing!
The cheekiest example was that a clickable link had the image of a speck of dust on it,so the user would go to remove the dust and click on the link 😂

Thanks again for writing about it!

Just read this via the Deep Dives contest. I think it's quite true; so many people don't realize the stealing they are doing. Most people just "allow" a phone to access the things it wants when you first install an app without batting an eye. I recently installed an app and it wanted access to my contacts. I quickly denied it naturally being someone who has known about these issues for a couple years now but how many people just say yes? People are taking advantage of all that free phone, free computer crap and not thinking twice. Nothing in this world is free, you are only getting something without having to spend money because the company on the other end is making a killing selling you off!

The flu shot analogy I enjoyed because the flu shot and others like it are an absolute joke. They are a manufactured scare and statistic. If you dig into the numbers behind the CDC's death report on the flu it's bogus. They lump in, last I looked, the deaths from pneumonia and influenza. If you look at the raw numbers say 75,000 people died from pneumonia and only 1,500 died from the flu. They will of course run with the headline "nearly 80,000 people have died from influenza this year!!!!11" such a load of crap.

Keep up the good work, hopefully you enter more of the deep dive challenges! I want to but I just unfortunately don't have much time.


Thanks a lot @cmplxty I very much
agree w/everything you wrote above.
I know the deepdives usually gives one
a couple of weeks to produce an article.
Also, in a similar respect @informationwar
allows you to submit whenever you choose.
The Discord for IW is here if U R interested.


Thanks for the tip. I will pop in the IW Discord on my phone. I might give the next deep dive contest a try, see how I fare against you folks! Cheers


Coolness, sounds good : -)
The more the merrier I say!


Your balance is below $0.028. @dustsweeper is now disabled for your account until you transfer new funds. Check out the Dustsweeper FAQ here:

Very similar to the old "AOL Checkup" that Google tried implementing a few months back. Yeah, go ahead and hook me up with that free check up of my files and shit. Thank you AOL and Google for having my back like that.

Then all the bundled crap when people download something that comes with other crap (like Crapafee computer protection). I used to bust my ex step son all the time for downloading shit because of changes that were made to the browser home page and such. Even my girlfriends computer was infected with shit from the 10 months we were apart from her downloading stuff. I am convinced most people are not paying attention to any of the fine print anywhere. Good rule of thumb, if it takes an hour or longer to read the fine print, might as well bend over because thats why they need so many words (to hide the ones that might make you think it might not be a good idea).

Curated for #informationwar (by @commonlaw)

  • Our purpose is to encourage posts discussing Information War, Propaganda, Disinformation and other false narratives. We currently have over 8,000 Steem Power and 20+ people following the curation trail to support our mission.

  • Join our discord and chat with 200+ fellow Informationwar Activists.

  • Join our brand new reddit! and start sharing your Steemit posts directly to The_IW!

  • Connect with fellow Informationwar writers in our Roll Call! InformationWar - Contributing Writers/Supporters: Roll Call Pt 11

Ways you can help the @informationwar

  • Upvote this comment.
  • Delegate Steem Power. 25 SP 50 SP 100 SP
  • Join the curation trail here.
  • Tutorials on all ways to support us and useful resources here

if you are not careful they might just discover what you are interested in and show you relevant ads!