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I was thinking about how these days consumers are conscious about whether certain types of food products are certified to be compliant with ethical processes or practices such as the fair trade certification for coffee. Also, there are standards that allow certain types of food products to be compliant with specific characteristics such as free range (for eggs), organic (various products), halal (for meat) and others.

I was wondering if there has been anything proposed for digital products and services that relate to the way that they are designed (e.g. does not use any 'dark patterns') or if the companies that produce them comply to certain codes relating to corporate or social responsibility. As a strong advocate for UX designers to take responsibility for making good ethical choices and decisions,

I believe that the adoption or institution of such standards will help people raise more awareness against design practices that are potentially harmful to users, such as online sports betting or e-commerce websites trying to entice or trick users into doing something unknowingly.

  • What value would such a standard bring to the consumer? Can you give an example? This seems rather hypothetical as is. – DA01 Sep 8 '15 at 4:35
  • @DA01 What about game apps with in-app purchases that target children and are designed to lure them into making purchases without parents being allowed to set limits, or gambling sites that do not allow people to set limits? I think if there were some ethical reviews of the process involved in the design of these applications then this could be prevented. – Michael Lai Sep 9 '15 at 13:10
  • I'd argue that if there are ethical issues with those examples, they have more to do with the business plan/product than any particular UX. – DA01 Sep 9 '15 at 14:40
  • @DA01 I would argue that if companies are putting the user experience at the forefront of their business plan/product, then surely designing a product that is ethically sound and doesn't deliberate contribute to any harm to the user would be relevant. – Michael Lai Sep 9 '15 at 22:54
  • While I agree with that, I don't see many companies putting the user experience at the forefront of their business plan. :) – DA01 Sep 9 '15 at 23:07
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There are certifications bodies and regulators, but they would be industry and/or country specific.

Many countries have laws regarding consumer protection, fraud, and spam laws, that regulates the practices of eCommerce operators on that country. The effectiveness of these regulations varies, as eCommerce often sells between borders and regulators may not have jurisdiction over overseas sellers.

ECommerce sites that handles credit cards also have to comply with PCI-DSS. The PCI-DSS is enforced by banks and card payment processors (Visa/Mastercard) to reduce fraudulent transactions due to stolen credit card details. As far as I know, PCI-DSS don't regulate how merchants sells products, but only credit card protections.

While not directly related to ethical salesmanship, payment processors (e.g. Visa, Mastercard, Paypal) and eCommerce sites often have charge back rules, which means that unethical eCommerce operators may receive a lot of charge backs and that would endanger their ability to receive payment using that payment processors. Since online shopping heavily rely on electronic payments, losing payment processor can be disastrous for a merchant.

Online gambling sites on many countries have to follow regulatory and/or licensing bodies, just like their land-based counterparts. Some of these regulators may be independent bodies, like Alderney Gambling Control Commission, while others, like UK's Gambling Commission, are government bodies. These regulators typically regulates game terminologies, how game information are disclosed to players, pay structure (e.g. minimal and maximum return to players), fair game rules, accounting practices, money laundering prevention, etc.

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  • I understand that these certification bodies would be industry or country specific, but they only seem to operate within the legal framework and are really used for compliance purposes. I was wondering if there are any bodies that exist to encourage self-regulation and compliance for the purpose of promoting more ethical design practices. – Michael Lai May 26 '17 at 1:11

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