FIMS Publications

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Working Paper

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Dark patterns are user interface (UI) design strategies intended to influence users to make choices or perform actions that benefit online services. This study examines the dark patterns employed by social networking sites (SNSs) to influence users to make privacy-invasive choices. We documented the privacy dark patterns encountered in attempts to register an account, configure account settings, and log in and out for five SNSs popular among American teenagers (Discord, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat). Based on our observations, we present a typology consisting of three major types of privacy dark patterns (Obstruction, Obfuscation, and Pressure) and 10 subtypes. These strategies undermine the ability of users to make conscious, informed decisions about the management of their personal data – and as prolific users of social media who sometimes demonstrate a lack of knowledge and concern about online privacy, teens are especially vulnerable. We outline the implications of our findings for teens’ privacy on social media and the development of dark pattern countermeasures.