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Deceptive Design: Moving Towards Trusted Design Patterns

Deceptive designs are built into website or app interfaces and can manipulate us into making choices we may not want to make. This Tech Policy Design Lab is exploring ways to curb these widespread practices and move us towards more trusted design.

Explore the Opportunities

What are deceptive designs?

Most people who use the web have likely encountered Deceptive Design. Also known as Dark Patterns, it refers to design patterns that manipulate people on the web into making choices they otherwise would not make. 

It can be found on travel booking sites, gaming platforms, and e-commerce sites. You might spot it when finding it difficult to cancel a subscription, or understand a cookie consent process. 

Trusted Design, by contrast, respects people’s human rights. It prioritises people, not platforms, and empowers them to make informed choices.

Why does it matter?

Deceptive Design is a human rights issue. It limits consent and autonomy online, particularly for vulnerable populations. Harms can include financial loss, invasions of privacy, and negative impacts on mental health. One study showed that people subjected to Deceptive Design were twice as likely to enroll in a service of dubious value.

Vulnerable populations are not only more susceptible to the risks of Deceptive Design, they are often actively targeted. Examples include the elderly and those with lower levels of education or digital literacy. Populations with lower income and lack of access to mental health services may be disproportionately affected by potential harms.

What can we do about it?

Experts and advocates came together through the Tech Policy Design Lab process to develop strategies for change. Their recommendations include 5 main pathways to Trusted Design:
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Mobilise for change

  • Build a coalition of diverse stakeholders to implement strategies for change and evolve Trusted Design Norms.
  • Create a Crowdsourced Reporting Tool to make deceptive patterns easier to identify, report, and track.
  • Raise awareness through a Storytelling Campaign that highlights the harmful impacts of Deceptive Design and advocates for meaningful change to industry practices and regulation.
Learn more
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Build new norms

  • Develop and adopt Trusted Design Norms, a framework that provides industry guidance for promoting trust, limiting deceptive practices, and respecting human rights.
  • Develop an Evaluation & Accreditation System, a Trusted Design assessment tool to serve as a basis for regulation while driving accountability for tech companies.
Learn more

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this work through consultations, workshops and collaborative sessions. Read more about the process, explore the contributors, and the strategies for change.

Ready to Get Involved? Reach out to to get connected to the community taking this work forward.