Deceptive designs: TACD members research and work

Deceptive design practices, or ‘dark patterns’, are used to make consumers take actions against their own interests, to the benefit of companies. Common privacy-invasive dark patterns include hidden default settings that maximise data collection, ambiguous language designed to confuse, and consent flows that push toward certain choices.

Such practices are particularly damaging in the context of the surveillance economy, when used by the large platforms to increase their market power. The harms caused by dark patterns are not distributed evenly and have a higher impact on people in vulnerable situations, those with low incomes, children, the elderly, or those with disabilities.

TACD members have collected data and studied how deceptive design affect consumers in Europe and in the United States.

BEUC (Europe):

  • Fast track to surveillance: How Google makes privacy the hard choice (2022)
  • “Dark Patterns” and the Consumer Law Acquis: Recommendations for better enforcement and reform (2022)

Center for Digital Democracy (U.S.):

  • FTC Must Address Drivers of Dark Patterns – CDD’s Katharina Kopp Speaks At FTC Workshop (2021)
  • Advocates Ask FTC to Protect Youth From Manipulative “Dark Patterns” Online (2021)

Consumentenbond (Europe, Netherlands):

  •  “Online opzeggen vaak puzzeltocht” (2020, in Dutch)

Electronic Frontier Foundation (U.S.):

  • Help Bring Dark Patterns To Light (2021)
  • Deceptive Checkboxes Should Not Open Our Checkbooks (2021)

EPIC and Consumer Reports (U.S.):

  • How the FTC can mandate data minimisation through a Section 5 unfairness rulemakinh. (2022)

Fairplay (U.S.):

  • Submission to the FTC’s Request for Public Comment on the Federal Trade Commission’s Request for Comments Regarding Topics to be Discussed at Dark Patterns Workshop (2021)
  • Prevalence and Characteristics of Manipulative Design in Mobile Applications Used by Children (2022)
  • Global platforms, partial protections: Design discriminations on social media platforms (2022)

Forbrukerradet (Europe, Norway):

  • Report – Enough deception! Norwegian consumers’ experiences with deceptive design (2022)
  • Report – Insert coin: How the gaming industry exploits consumers using loot boxes (2022)
  • Report – You can log out, but you can never leave: How Amazon manipulates consumers to keep them subscribed to Amazon Prime (2021)
  • Report – Deceived by design: How tech companies use dark patterns to discourage us from
    exercising our rights to privacy (2018)

Fédération Romande des Consommateurs (Europe, Switzerland):

  • Dark patterns: sombres jeux d’influence sur le web (2022, in French)

NOYB (Europe, Austria):

  • noyb aims to end “cookie banner terror” and issues more than 500 GDPR complaints (2022)

Privacy International (Europe, UK):

  • Most cookie banners are annoying and deceptive. This is not consent. (2019)


  • Google puts its users on a ‘fast track to surveillance’: EU and U.S. groups urge authorities to take action (2022)
  • Panel at the Computer, Privacy and Data Protection (CPDP) conference: “Manipulative Design Practices Online ─ Policy Solutions for the EU and the U.S.” (2022)
  • Manipulative Design Practices Online: What Policy Solutions for the EU and the U.S. (2022)
  • TACD and 16 members take action against Amazon’s use of dark patterns (2021)


  • Dark patterns: A step-by-step guide to protect your privacy (2022)

VZBV (Europe, Germany):

  • Dark Patterns: Designtricks im Internet bereiten Probleme (2022, in German)
  • DSA: EU-Regulierung des Internets bleibt hinter Erwartungen zurück (2022, in German)
  • Wahlfreiheit für Nutzer in digitalen Märkten sicherstellen (2021, in German)