Senators spar with Google exec over use of 'persuasive technology'

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Lawmakers expressed disbelief when Maggie Stanphill, Google’s director of user experience, told the Senate Communications Subcommittee “No, we do not use persuasive technology at Google.” At issue before the panel was how algorithms used by companies like Google, Facebook and others might influence their users. Stanphill's statement prompted pushback from senators who had been scrutinizing the company over its content decisions on platforms like YouTube. “You don’t want to clarify that a little further?” Sen Brian Schatz (D-HI) asked. “Either I misunderstand your company or I misunderstand the definition of persuasive technology.” Stanphill responded by saying “dark patterns and persuasive technology are not core to our design.” “We build our products with privacy, security and control for the users,” she continued. “And ultimately this builds a lifelong relationship with the user, which is primary. That’s our trust.” “I don’t understand what any of that meant,” Schatz said. Subcommittee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) suggested that he was considering a bill that would tackle the issue and called for greater transparency from the industry.

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