Unveiling Deceptive Design, And How You Can Protect Yourself from It

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In the last decade, the rise of the internet has brought about tremendous benefits, including access to a wealth of information and online services. However, it has also paved the way for Deceptive online Design, which can manipulate users into making unintended decisions or purchases. Deceptive Design, a form of Dark Patterns (read more about it here), uses psychological tricks to mislead and exploit users, and it has become a significant concern in the online world.        

In this article, you’ll learn what deceptive design is and how it can impact consent and compliance.  

What Exactly is Deceptive Design? 

Deceptive Design refers to using intentional, misleading design elements that aim to manipulate users’ behavior and decisions. It is a practice that exploits human psychology to achieve a specific goal, such as persuading users to purchase a product, sign up for a service, or click a particular button. 

The design elements used in Deceptive Design can range from the subtle to the overt. For example, a subtle use of Deceptive Design may include a website that emphasizes the “Buy Now” button by placing it in a prominent position and using a color contrasting with the rest of the page. By drawing the user’s attention to the button, this tactic encourages them to make a purchase, potentially even if they did not originally intend to do so.

On the other hand, overt use of Deceptive Design may include tactics such as creating fake buttons or pop-ups that lead to unwanted actions or using false or misleading language in advertising copy or product descriptions.

There is also wide use online, where businesses and advertisers can access vast amounts of user data and tailor their designs to target specific individuals or demographics. It is a prevalent practice in e-commerce, social media, and mobile apps, where companies often use Deceptive Design to influence user behavior and drive sales.  

How Does Deceptive Design Impact Consent and Compliance? 

Deceptive Design can significantly impact consent and compliance, mainly where users must provide personal information or grant access to their devices. This is because Deceptive Design can obscure important information or manipulate users into giving consent that they may not fully understand.

One way that Deceptive Design can impact consent is through opt-in or opt-out checkboxes. These checkboxes are commonly used in online forms, such as those used for newsletter subscriptions or account registrations. However, Deceptive Design can make these checkboxes less noticeable or obscure in a way that they are checked by default. This can lead to users unintentionally giving consent to receive marketing materials or other unwanted communications. 

Another way that Deceptive Design can impact consent is through the use of misleading language or graphics. For example, a website may use language implying that users must provide certain information to access a product or service, even if this is untrue. Similarly, a website may use graphics or pop-ups that create a sense of urgency or pressure, encouraging users to provide consent without fully understanding the implications. 

Compliance with data protection regulations, such as the United States’ California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), may also be impacted by Deceptive Design. These regulations require businesses to obtain clear and explicit user consent before collecting, storing, or processing their personal information. However, Deceptive Design can obscure or downplay the importance of these consent mechanisms, leading to non-compliance with data protection regulations.     

How Can You Protect Yourself from Deceptive Design? 

  • Stay up to date on the latest Deceptive Design practices and techniques. Read articles, attend webinars, and follow industry experts to learn about new and emerging trends you need to be aware of to protect your business. 
  • Install ad-blockers on your web browser to block pop-ups and other misleading ads.
  • Enable multi-factor authentication on all your accounts, including email, social media, and banking accounts, to prevent unauthorized access to your personal information.  
  • Be wary of unsolicited emails or links that ask for personal or financial information. Contact the sender directly to verify the request’s legitimacy if in doubt. 
  • Regular security audits should be conducted to identify and address potential vulnerabilities before cybercriminals have a chance to exploit them. 
  • Use cyber security tools such as anti-virus software, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems to protect your computer and network from malicious attacks. Reputable third-party tools and services should have a proven track record of protecting against Deceptive Design and other cyber threats. 
  • Finally, VPNs and password managers can all effectively block Deceptive Design and protect your personal information from being harvested or tracked. 


Deceptive Design is a growing problem in today’s digital landscape. Still, you can avoid falling victim to its manipulations by being aware of its tactics and taking steps to protect yourself. Stay vigilant, read the fine print, be bold, and take action to protect your privacy and security online. 

Mark Funk
Mark Funk is an experienced information security specialist who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.