DoNotPay's latest service will auto-cancel your free trials before the billing period starts

DoNotPay (previously) is a collection of consumer-advocacy tools automated the process of fighting traffic tickets, help homeless people claim benefits, sue Equifax for leaking all your financial data, navigating the airlines' deliberately confusing process for getting refunds on plane tickets whose prices drop after you buy them, and filing small-claims suits against crooked corporations. Read the rest

Firefox is finally fixing its broken screenshot tool

Firefox's screenshot tool has a lot going for it, but after two days of trying to use it I gave up and went back to using Ksnapshot (now Spectacle) for the near-constant screenshotting I do, all day long: that's because when you hit "save" in Firefox's screenshot UI, it didn't save it to your hard-drive, rather, it uploaded it to a Mozilla server, which, in addition to being time-consuming and stupid, was also a potential huge privacy risk (if, for example, you were screenshotting a sensitive document to retain for later). Read the rest

Kill sticky headers: a bookmarklet to get rid of the web's static blobs

Alisdair McDiarmid's Kill Sticky Headers bookmarklet banishes all fixed-position CSS elements, like navigation bars, cookie consent popups, email list subscription solicitations, and so on -- these are an annoyance at best and an accessibility problem at worst; if you have low vision like me and habitually scale up the type on the pages you browse, these elements grow to completely eclipse the type, making you choose between eyestrain and access. Drag this Kill Sticky to your toolbar and click it whenever you want to get rid of these annoyances. Read the rest

Amazon has Reasons not to let that negative review go up (Updated)

Thousands of Amazon reviews are bought and paid for, and the company has a significant, algorithm-led effort to weed out sellers and scammers who abuse the system. But Amazon itself also rigs the UI to make it hard to leave negative reviews, writes Stephen Eggers:

After spending ~5 to ~10 minutes filling it out I get this message.

This item is only eligble for Amazon Verified Purchase Reviews.

What a waste of my time! I bought the thing, Amazon knows this, so what is this about "Amazon Verified Purchase reviews"

Note that I only got this message AFTER trying to leave a 2 star review. What would have happend if I had left a more positive review? Would that be allowed?

My favorite 'dark pattern' at Amazon was how you couldn't navigate away from the checkout page: the Amazon logo was unlinked and the rest of the usual layout was absent. They changed this recently to make the logo clickable, but they still aren't letting you leave that page without a fight, and there's only one place they wan't you to go back to:

UPDATE: Amazon responds:

"An AVP badge will only appear next to a review when the product was purchased on Amazon at a price that reflects the typical shopping experience. If a customer is receiving the message that we are only accepting AVP reviews, than they did not buy the product on Amazon for a typical price. We never suppress reviews based on star rating or sentiment."

Read the rest

Norwegian government report outlines how Facebook and others trick users into giving up their privacy

Deceived by Design is a report by Norway's consumer protection bureau on 'dark patterns' -- the interface tricks and traps used by tech companies to fool users into doing things they don't want to.

The combination of privacy intrusive defaults and the use of dark patterns, nudge users of Facebook and Google, and to a lesser degree Windows 10, toward the least privacy friendly options to a degree that we consider unethical.

We question whether this is in accordance with the principles of data protection by default and data protection by design, and if consent given under these circumstances can be said to be explicit, informed and freely given.

A trivial but perfectly illustrative example: Facebook uses fake "notification" dots to encourage users into quickly agreeing to new terms to get access to their account.

Red dots signifying message notifications were the only part of the regular Facebook interface that was visible during the process, leading the user to think that there were messages waiting. These dots were displayed even if the user did not have any unread messages. This placed further pressure on the user to go through the process quickly, and not delete the account, so that these apparent messages could be read. If this was in fact a deliberate design from Facebook, this is a very clear example of use of dark patterns to manipulate users.

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Timely video about "dark patterns," the tricks websites use to manipulate you

If you've tried to delete your Facebook account and found yourself mysteriously lost and frustrated, welcome to the world of Dark Patterns, the website and app trickery designed to make you agree to things or otherwise fool you into doing something other than you intend.

The video uses closing an Amazon account as an example. It's essentially impossible: even if you find the one deceptively-titled link three layers down through the most irrelevant-seeming menu options on the site, all it gives you is a generic "live chat" window. You cannot close your account without a fundamentally adversarial interaction with a person whose job depends on stopping you.

Pictured here, though, is something this week from Facebook, promising "text anyone in your phone" but really a ruse to let the company track your phone calls and texts--a fact you might be able to figure out from the tiny, unreadable silver-on-white text it doesn't want you to read.

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A tour of the manipulative, creepy bullshit Facebook pulls to stop you deleting your account

Ramy Khuffash takes us on a journey through the dark patterns, emotional manipulations and annoying hurdles Facebook uses to prevent users from deleting their accounts.

I hope this doesn't become a commonly used approach for stopping people from actually deleting their accounts.

Overally, I found the process confusing and mostly unnecessary.

Your friends will miss you! Read the rest

When should web designers use modal overlays?

"This web page needs to be interrupted by a lightbox effect and a modal dialog asking me to sign up for a mailing list," said no one ever. Read the rest

Intricate mandalas created by Volt Agapeyev

"Nature is transgression's church," says Vitaliy Volt" Agapeyev, who combines geometric forms with intricate patterns found in nature. Read the rest

Dark Patterns: why do companies pursue strategies that make their customers regret doing business?

In this 30 minute video, Harry Brignull rounds up his work on cataloging and unpicking "Dark Patterns," (previously) the super-optimized techniques used by online services to lure their customers into taking actions they would not make otherwise and will later regret. Read the rest