Yes or no: Do you agree to the terms and conditions of this website? Would you like to not receive our newsletter? If you don’t want to receive our newsletter, would you rather have bad breath and no friends?
Those are a few of the easier questions in “Terms & Conditions Apply,” a new online quiz game that spoofs the modern web’s dark patterns. Too often, the act of rejecting cookies or dismissing newsletter sign-up prompts can feel like a video game, with hidden buttons to press and cryptic menus to decipher. So Jonathan Plackett, a creative technologist at the ad agency Wieden + Kennedy, teamed up with The Guardian puzzle columnist Alex Bellos to build an actual puzzle game out of it.
The game’s goal is to reject all notification prompts, cookies, and terms of service agreements, and while its 29 questions start out simple enough, they quickly take a turn toward the farcical. One question pays homage to the “two-door riddle” from Labyrinth, while several others involve buttons that move around when you try to click them.
In reality, websites employ much subtler tricks to secure the outcomes they want. Last year, a group of university researchers found that when a site made users click onto a secondary menu page to opt out of data collection, consent rates increased by 22%. Another study, by Deloitte, found that 43% of websites tried to “nudge” users toward accepting cookies through “strategic use of font size, color, and level of complexity” in their prompts.
The good news is that workarounds exist. Browser extensions such as I Don’t Care About Cookies for desktop and Hush for iOS will automatically hide the prompts that ask you to allow tracking or sign up for newsletters. In other words, you can opt out of playing the game entirely.
Give Terms & Conditions Apply a try by visiting the site in your browser. The creators promise they won’t track you.