Privacy fetish

Published on Feb 8, 2019

After scandals with Facebook and major data breaches in the past years, I see more and more products either made to improve privacy and security on the web, or having features aimed at “aware” people. Nowadays products begin to use “improved privacy” for their marketing. It turns into a fetish for privacy: people who know about the breaches and other web dangers will choose more secure products over analogs, even giving up some important features that such products might have. And we will see this trend growing as long as the data people give to services without thinking will continue to be abused. Even governments are playing their role in this game with regulations such as GDPR. 

It's not vividly evident at the moment, but some services now create features that make their users feel safer. It's a good thing, but I can imagine this turning into a dark pattern in the near future. Similar to writing “no cholesterol” on vegetable oils, websites can say that they are “safe”, although they actually have nothing to keep safe at all, causing people to lose trust in other websites that don't state that. Or even worse, some websites may gain trust by stating they are “secure” while they are still stealing data. 

How so? It already was happening: in previous versions of Chrome, every website that had HTTPS protocol enabled, was marked by Chrome as “secure” and had a green lock icon. However, it only meant that the connection is safe and no middleman can access the data that you are sending to the website. The website itself could even be a part of a phishing attack. For some users it might have meant that they are safe to send their credit card data to this website. No middlemen are necessary, they can collect your data directly from the form you filled in!