A report released on Wednesday by the Norwegian Consumer Council alleges that Facebook and Google have influenced users to share data with the use of misleading wording as well as confusing interfaces. The so-called “dark patterns “manipulated users into accepting privacy options that favored the companies and not the users.
The NCC claims that Facebook and Google do not aim at providing users with actual choices. Additionally, their choice of dark patterns violates the General Data Protection Regulation that was implemented last month across Europe. The NCC asserts that manipulation of users into sharing information is an indication of disrespect of people’s privacy.
NCC further alleges that users who refused to pick certain settings were in some cases subject to deletion of their accounts. In the face of such allegations, the Norwegian trade organization and other consumer and privacy groups in Europe and the US have urged the European data protection authorities to scrutinize the claims against Facebook and Google, and to a lesser degree, Microsoft. If it is discovered that the companies have violated the GDPR, they will face fines of up to US$24 million.
In their report, the NCC concluded that the default settings offered by the tech companies’favored the companies as opposed to prioritizing the end user. The report affirms that users change their pre-selected settings on rare occasions but Facebookand Google offer the least-friendly privacy choices.
Unfortunately, there is presentation of personal sharing data as well as the use of targeted advertising as of adding benefits to the userthrough the wording anddesign. More worrisome is the fact that users who may prefer stricter privacy options often receive warnings about possible loss of functionality.
The impacts of the NCC’s findings are not limited to users within Europe. Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT says that the problem is that since the EU’s recent implementation of the GDPR, companies need to avoid breaking the regulations or risk hefty fines.
King further states that dark practices have become so ordinary that it has become difficult to scrub them. Thus, the tech firms have gained success from monetizing data. CEO of AdCellerant, Brock Berry, says that Facebook and Google have created powerful platforms and businesses from their users’ data.
Though NCC mentions Facebook, Google and Microsoft’s Windows 10 OS, the realization is a reflection of the handling of privacy issue by most software firms. Josh Crandall, principal analyst at Netpop Research, says that almost all tech companies collect data about their users. Therefore, this is not a problem that only affects the big tech companies.
However, there is hope that the practice will end given the hefty fines that the companies are likely to face.