“Misleading prompts to just click the ‘OK’ button can often transfer your contacts, messages, browsing activity, photos, or location information without you even realizing it,” Republican Deb Fischer explained in a statement issued with her Democratic counterpart, Mark Warner.
The bill focuses on practices known as “dark patterns”, which are interfaces - usually pop-ups - designed to deliberately deceive users into giving personal data. These include disguised ads, confirm-shaming, bait and switch, hidden costs, forced continuity of service, friend spam, trick questions or fake discounts and promos.
More and more consumers are being targeted with manipulative online practices that try to trick them into handing over personal information – and this problem is not going away on its own. That’s why I've introduced a bill to protect user privacy and increase transparency online. pic.twitter.com/d8AnSkPBS0
Senator Warner said to CNBC that the legislation could be included in a federal privacy bill that lawmakers in the Commerce Committee are drafting, adding that Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, Google, and others have expressed support for privacy regulation.
“The platform companies are now going to have an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is, to see if they support this legislation and other approaches,” he noted.
Free social media and online platforms such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Instagram rely on advertising for revenue, using collected data from users to effectively target those ads. According to Facebook’s investor report, the company’s ad revenue in 2018 was US$ 55 billion, which represented 98 percent of the total earnings and a 38 percent increase from the prior year.
The bill would prohibit companies from choosing groups of people for targeted and behavioral practices without informed consent. Such restrictions on how social media companies collect information about users would affect their ability to sell advertisements, meaning a direct blow to their main source of profit.