On Tuesday, Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) introduced a bill that would stop large internet platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google from using deceptive design tricks as methods to make users hand over their personal data.

If the DETOUR (Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction) Act gets approved, it would ban large internet platforms from designing, modifying, or manipulating a user interface in a way that impairs users from making educated decisions before consenting and giving companies access to their personal data. All internet platforms with over 100 million monthly active users would be affected by the bill.

“For years, social media platforms have been relying on all sorts of tricks and tools to convince users to hand over their personal data without really understanding what they are consenting to,” said Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA). “Our goal is simple: to instill a little transparency in what remains a very opaque market and ensure that consumers are able to make more informed choices about how and when to share their personal information.”

The draft text of the bill says that The Federal Trade Commission would enforce these proposed rules along with an outside body similar to a self-regulatory organization that would be registered with the agency.

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“The presence of dark patterns weakens any privacy policy involving consent,” said Deb Fischer (R-NE) in a statement. “These manipulative user interfaces intentionally limit understanding and undermine consumer choice.”

The bill has the potential to dramatically affect how platforms A/B test. Essentially, it could outlaw the practice unless it’s routinely disclosed to users. “To subdivide or segment consumers of online services into groups for the purposes of behavioral or psychological experiments or studies, except with the informed consent of each user involved” would become illegal if the bill gets approved.

A few weeks after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress last year, a memo was circulated by Sens. Warner. The memo contained a handful of different ideas lawmakers could use to regulate major tech platforms. The DETOUR Act is one of several expected to come out of Warner’s memo.


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