FTC Probes Dark Patterns; Apple Accused Of Unfair App Store Practices in EU

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Dark Underbelly

You know when the opt-in button is, like, way bigger than the opt-out button, or a checkbox is ticked by default? Those are dark patterns, and regulators are starting to take notice. The Federal Trade Commission held an all-day workshop last week to examine these deceptive design elements and user interfaces, which most consumer and privacy advocates consider to be misleading at best and downright manipulative at worst. Privacy consent notices online are one of the major dark pattern offenders. Jennifer King, a privacy and data policy fellow at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence, put it like this during one of the workshop’s panel discussions: “Those existing mechanisms by which we ask for consent – I think they’re pretty much a complete failure at this point.” So, what’s to be done about it? Well, when the FTC hosts a workshop, it means the commission is paying attention. Anyone using what the FTC might consider a dark pattern is now on notice. Digiday has more.


When it comes to big tech, Europe is not playing around. Facebook and Google are both dealing with multiple lawsuits in the EU, including a “mass action” case against Facebook over an alleged GDPR violation related to leaked user data and a $4.16 billion class action suit in the UK alleging that Google illegally tracked 4.4 million iPhone users nearly 10 years ago in England and Wales. And now Apple joins the club, The Wall Street Journal reports. The European Commission has charged Apple with antitrust violations for allegedly abusing its control over the distribution of music-streaming apps by requiring them to use Apple’s in-app payments system to sell digital content. The case stems from a complaint brought by Spotify. Apple’s App Store practices are already the subject of a federal suit in the US brought by “Fortnite” maker Epic Games. Back to the EU, regulators claim that Apple has “distorted competition” by limiting how app developers can inform users about cheaper ways to subscribe outside the App Store. Apple, of course, defends its practices.

Controversial Law

And speaking of the EU, the European Parliament has adopted a law forcing tech firms to immediately remove what authorities deem to be “terrorist content.” Specifically, the new law requires companies such Google, Facebook and Twitter to immediately remove content that authorities believe incites terrorism, tries to recruit terrorists, “glorifies terrorist activities” or gives advice on how to make dangerous items such as explosives and firearms. According to Business Insider, companies would have to nix the offending content within an hour of being told to do so. Some lawmakers and experts, however, warn that it will not be practical to implement and could harm people’s privacy and free-speech rights.

But Wait, There’s More!

Magnite has closed its acquisition of SpotX. May CTV reign supreme! [blog post]

Roku removed YouTube TV from its channel store following failed negotiations. [TechCrunch]

And in yet more CTV news, VIZIO and Verizon Media have announced a strategic partnership, giving Verizon Media’s DSP access to VIZIO’s Inscape viewership data from more than 18M opted-in VIZIO Smart TVs. [release]

Twitter posted pretty darned good advertising revenue for the first quarter – it grew its ad business by 32% overall – but the stock whiffed in after-hours trading, partly because Twitter missed analyst expectations on monetizable daily user growth. [CNBC]

The dictionary doesn’t have enough superlatives to describe what’s happening to the five biggest technology companies, raising uncomfortable questions for their CEOs. [NYT]

Interpublic media agency Mediahub has been awarded media duties for Crown Media Family Networks, the Hallmark Cards Inc. unit that operates The Hallmark Channel and several other cable networks. [MediaPost]

You’re Hired!

The Richards Group hired Nikki Wilson as its first-ever chief talent and culture officer. [Adweek]

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