Dark pattern in Chrome ToS

The other day I was installing Chrome on my new iPhone 5 when I stumbled upon a very questionable screen:

Chrome ToS & usage statistics opt-in screen. Dark Pattern?

On first view it seems to be a regular Terms of Service page requiring checkbox approval from the user. However, the approval is given by clicking the “Accept & Continue”-button. The checkbox is in fact an opt-in to approve the sending of usage statistics to Google. Given the fact that most screens like this one require the user to tick the checkbox before submitting this is a deceiving trick to fool the user into applying.

We know that Google left its “Don’t be evil” roots quite a few years ago, but this still surprised me. I actually had already ticked the checkbox and was instants away from hitting the submit button before I realized I was being fooled.

A dark grey Dolphin

A couple of years back it was cool to have a browser on your phone. Nowadays you need to have at least three to be cool. So after installing Chrome I returned to the App Store to fetch Dolphin, the mobile browser. And again, I was being fooled:

Dolphin's Terms of Use screen with usage statistics opt-in. Less dark than Chrome's, but still dark grey at least.

Admittedly this is not as bad as Chrome’s example, for two reasons:

  1. The “Accept”-button is at the top of the screen, far away from the opt-in checkbox.
  2. The text is more concise, making it more probable that users will read it and realize what’s up.

Still, I can’t imagine that the designers thought this was the most logical place for such an opt-in element if it wasn’t to trick people in opting-in.

Is this a bad thing?

In the end usage statistics should be beneficial to the users. But I still feel very much tricked by these tactics. There are better ways to get opt-in for this, for example by applying progressive engagement.

Google could ask for opt-in on start-up after the browser has been used at least two times. It should do so in a non-intruding fashion of course, like in the (“empty”) start-up tab. This also gives Google a much bigger canvas to actually explain why it is collecting all this data and how it benefits the user.

But Google being Google they’ve probably tested this very well and found out this generates the highest opt-in rate. But from both a user and a UX perspective I don’t like this at all.

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