An Example of a Dark Pattern in Facebook Messenger

Scott Michael
Apr 7, 2018 · Unlisted

One of the many ways Facebook tricks you into giving up more of your data

When you first install the Messenger app, and after each update, you’re greeted with the box above.

“Give us access to your phone contacts” it asks, with no apparent way to say No.

Counterintuitively tapping Learn More takes you to a screen where you can skip this:

“Messenger won’t work” it tells you, “unless you press this big blue button”.

From this text alone, it’s not entirely clear what “adding your contacts” means. There are no doubt many people who don’t realize tapping the button will give Facebook access to their phone’s contact list, and that Messenger will work perfectly fine even if they don’t.

It’s also far too easy to absent-mindedly press OK, and that’s why we’re put through this process every time the app updates: Facebook is counting on us accidentally acting against our wishes.

This is not ok. And developers shouldn’t be ok with creating features like this.

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