Me2B Alliance’s Head of Validation Research, Noreen Whysel, recently presented “Shedding Light on Dark Patterns: A Case Study in Digital Harms,” at the 2021 Information Architecture Conference. Whysel’s presentation was aimed at the digital creators in attendance. These designers, developers and product managers are responsible for developing technology products, and thus may perpetuate harmful or disrespectful patterns. Social media companies designing addictive apps – on purpose – is an extreme example of this.
Whysel began the talk by describing the Me2B Alliance’s approach to respectful technology behavior and her contribution to our standards development and independent testing work. She then introduced the product integrity framework based on the Me2B Alliance’s Respectful Technology Specification, currently in development. The Specification incorporates routine information architecture heuristics and prioritizes clear communication with users – especially regarding their control over what they do and share, as well as what data may be collected from them. Whysel’s presentation included examples of digital harms known as “dark patterns.” She also encouraged the audience to rethink the labels themselves, asking, “is calling it a ‘Dark Pattern’ itself a dark pattern?” — pointing out the inherent racism of describing negative things as dark. She closed with advice on how to work with digital creators to avoid harmful patterns and create a path toward healthy technology relationships.