Govt launches hackathon to find solution to tackle 'dark patterns' on some online platforms
Registration for the hackathon has begun on Thursday and will continue till December 15.
The government is looking for an innovative app or software-based solution to address the problem of 'dark patterns' tactics used by certain online players to manipulate customer choices.
Innovative ideas will be selected in three rounds in the intra and inter-institute 'Dark Patterns Buster' hackathon to conclude on February 17, 2024, at IIT-BHU in Varanasi. Five winning teams will be rewarded with a cash prize of up to Rs 10 lakh, along with a certificate of achievement.
"The hackathon aims to come out with an innovative app or software-based solution that can detect the use, type and scale of dark patterns for ecommerce platforms," Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh said at the launch.
This is the third hackathon the consumer affairs department is organising after the successful hackathon on onion and tomato, he said.
Currently, there are no tools available in India or abroad to detect the 'dark patterns' on certain online platforms. India is probably the first country to take steps to find a solution to tackle this problem, he said, adding that the aim is to find a solution to empower consumers and protect their interests.
Registration for the hackathon has begun on Thursday and will continue till December 15. Thereafter, an intra-institute hackathon will be organised between December 16 and January 15, 2024, at registered host institutes, while an inter-institute competition will be held at Varanasi on February 17, 2024.
The award will be distributed to the five winning teams on World Consumer Rights Day on March 15, 2024.
Speaking on the occasion, Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) Chairperson Nidhi Khare said the Department of Consumer Affairs has already come out with draft guidelines on dark patterns and sought public comments.
"We specified 10 dark patterns in the draft guidelines. They include false urgency, basket sneaking, confirm shaming and others. We have taken three more dark patterns—trick question, saas billing and rogue malware—which we received through public consultation," she said.
Elaborating on the kind of tools required to tackle dark patterns, IIT-BHU professor NS Rajput said participants should develop browser extensions, add-ons, plugins, applications, mobile apps, etc to detect dark patterns on e-commerce platforms.
However, the pattern detection should be accurate, extensions should be user-friendly, availability of repository management, cross-browser compatibility, crowd-sourced pattern identification, data collection with privacy protection, and performance optimisation, he said.
The evaluation will be done based on innovation, demonstration of the solution as a turn-key solution, user interface or user experience, accuracy and reliability, privacy and compliance, performance and optimisation, he added.
Joint Secretary Anupam Mishra was also present at the launch.
Edited by Kanishk Singh