CTF researcher spoke at United Nations Conference on Trade and Development2022-04-28
At the end of March, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) hosted the webinar Dark Commercial Patterns: Experiences and Tools for Education and Business Guidance. Agnieszka Kitowska, postdoctoral researcher in Computer Science, was one of the speakers. She presented and discussed her current research and how this knowledge can be used to help consumers.
– The aim of the webinar was to deepen the understanding of the concept and identify instances where dark commercial patterns arise, says Agnieszka Kitowska. Plus to also share member states' experiences on the topic and discuss the means or tools that member states can use for education and business guidance.
The webinar was arranged by the UNCTAD working group on consumer protection in e-commerce. Agnieszka Kitowska was one of the speakers in a panel consisting representatives from consumer protection agencies, academia and civil society.
– I presented research on dark patterns, focusing on consumers in the digital markets, particularly the categorization of dark patterns focusing on future designs that might be more manipulative and aggressive. I also presented the results from a study on Terms & Conditions (T&Cs) as an example of how we could inform consumers and, hopefully, decrease their detriment.
Research that enables a well-functioning digital market
– It is essential to distribute this type of knowledge because of the increased use of technology in day-to-day activities, making consumers more likely to encounter dark patterns. Hence, the member states and regulatory institutions (e.g. consumer agencies) should learn about the most suitable and efficient methods to decrease possible consumer harms that may result from dark patterns, says Agnieszka Kitowska.
Together with colleagues at CTF, she has studied dark patterns and consumer rights on the Swedish digital market for the last two years. The research was commissioned by the Swedish Consumer Agency. Findings from the study have been disseminated in different ways by both the researchers and the agency, for example through the report ”Barriers to a well-functioning digital market – effects of visual design and information disclosures on consumer detriment” and a consumer campaign.
– It was a remarkable experience conducting work for the Swedish Consumer Agency, says Agnieszka Kitowska. Especially considering the people we met who wanted to know more and discuss the problems of UI designs and how they affect consumers. I feel that we truly have made an impact beyond academia by delivering presentations, workshops, and discussions about our research results, both with staff from the Swedish Consumer Agency and talks such as the one given at the UNCTAD webinar.