U.S. Senators. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) introduced the Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act. The legislation would stop large online online platforms from using deceptive user interfaces, known as “dark patterns” to trick consumers into handing over their personal data.

The term “dark patterns” is used to describe online interfaces in websites and apps designed to manipulate users into taking actions they would otherwise not take. These tactics are frequently used by social media platforms to mislead people into agreeing to settings and practices.  

“Our goal is simple: to instill a little transparency in what remains a very opaque market and ensure that consumers are able to make more informed choices about how and when to share their personal information,” said Warner, a former technology executive who is Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

“Any privacy policy involving consent is weakened by the presence of dark patterns. These manipulative user interfaces intentionally limit understanding and undermine consumer choice. Misleading prompts to just click the ‘OK’ button can often transfer your contacts, messages, browsing activity, photos, or location information without you even realizing it.” said Sen. Fischer, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Dark patterns can take various forms. Some examples include: a sudden interruption during the middle of a task repeating until the user agrees to consent; a purposeful obscuring of choices or settings through design or other means; or the use of privacy settings that push users to ‘agree’ as the default option, while people looking for more privacy-friendly options often must click through a much longer process.

The full bill text is available here.

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