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Indian government launches hackathon to identify dark patterns on e-commerce platforms

The Dark Patterns Buster Hackathon 2023 is being conducted in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology (BHU) Varanasi.

India’s Department of Consumer Affairs on October 26 launched a hackathon to help spot dark patterns on e-commerce websites.

The Dark Patterns Buster Hackathon 2023 is being conducted in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology (BHU) Varanasi and the goal for participants is to design and prototype app or software-based solutions such as browser extensions, plugins, add-ons, mobile apps etc. that can detect the use, type, and scale of dark patterns on e-commerce platforms.

“The objective of the initiative is to provide protection to consumers from all types of unfair trade practices,” the Department stated.

The hackathon consists of four rounds and the winners will be announced on World Consumer Rights Day, which is on March 15, 2024. You can find more details here.

Updates on the draft dark patterns guidelines:

The Department is also currently working on Guidelines for the Prevention and Regulation of Dark Patterns. It published the draft guidelines for public feedback between September 7 and October 5, 2023. The government said that it has received comments/suggestions from various individuals, law firms, national law universities, government organizations, consumer organizations, trade associations, and e-commerce platforms.

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As part of the public feedback, there were suggestions for including new dark patterns (in addition to the ten already prescribed) such as rogue malware, trick wording, SaaS billing, a few more illustrations, and modification of the definitions to a few existing dark patterns, in the guidelines.

“The Department is in the process of examining the suggestions/comments received and final Guidelines for Prevention and Regulation of Dark Patterns will be notified soon,” the Department noted.

What are dark patterns?

The draft guidelines define dark patterns as “any practices or deceptive design patterns using UI/UX (user interface/user experience) interactions on any platform; designed to mislead or trick users to do something they originally did not intend or want to do; by subverting or impairing the consumer autonomy, decision making or choice; amounting to misleading advertisement or unfair trade practice or violation of consumer rights.”

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