Saturday, August 31, 2013

Caveat surfer . . .

SOME SITES ARE RUN BY WEASELS. We've all encountered them, sites that are designed to force you to do something, most often at your expense. THE VERGE has a fascinating outline by Harry Brignull, “Dark Patterns: inside the interfaces designed to trick you”, which explores some of these foul constructs. And it's not just sites; Apple does the same thing with iOS 6 and they're not the only outfit, that's for sure.
When Apple released iOS 6, one of the few new features not enthusiastically promoted by the company was Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) ad tracking. It assigned each device a unique identifier used to track browsing activity, information advertisers used to target ads. Even though IDFA is anonymous, it's still unsettling to people who worry about privacy.
Fortunately, Apple included a way to disable the feature. You won't find it in the privacy settings, however. Instead, you have to go through a series of obscure options in the general settings menu. Now, "General” is a crappy name for a menu item. It’s mainly a bucket of miscellaneous stuff that they didn’t know what to do with. In the "General" menu, select "About." Down at the bottom of this menu, next to the terms of service and license items, there's a menu item listed as "Advertising." 
If you haven't been here before, the only option in the advertising menu, "Limit Ad Tracking" is probably selected "Off."
But let's take a closer look at the way this is worded. It doesn’t say “Ad Tracking – Off” it says “Limit Ad Tracking – Off”. So it’s a double negative. It’s not being limited, so when this switch is off, ad tracking is actually on.
Off means on! 
This is actually a great example of what I define as a "dark pattern."

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