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Research Reveals Dirty Tricks of Online Shopping


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The researchers analyzed the underlying computer code to unearth third-party services that provide these options to shopping sites, facilitating the spread of dark patterns as plugins.

Researchers have found deceptive practices on shopping websites of popular online retailers.

Credit: cloudfront.net

University of Chicago (UChicago) and Princeton University researchers found dark patterns, or deceptive practices employed by user interface designs, frequently used on shopping websites of popular online retailers.

A Webcrawling tool analyzed over 50,000 product pages from 11,000 shopping sites, and captured text so the researchers could find dark patterns and quantify how often they appeared.

More than 1,800 cases of dark pattern usage turned up on 1,254 sites, which is likely a conservative estimate; a subset of 183 sites exhibited outright deception, including recurring low-stock or high-demand alerts and messages pressuring consumers to buy more expensive products.

The researchers analyzed the underlying computer code to unearth third-party services that provide these options to shopping sites, facilitating the spread of dark patterns as plugins.

UChicago's Marshini Chetty said, "We wanted to get a sense of: Is this a problem and should we be doing something about it?"

From University of Chicago Department of Computer Science
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Abstracts Copyright © 2019 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


 

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