Setting Online Policy with Software Defaults
Rajiv C. Shah
University of Illinois at Chicago - Department of Communication
Jay P. Kesan
University of Illinois College of Law
October 11, 2008
Information, Communication, and Society, Vol. 11, No. 3, October 2008
Illinois Public Law Research Paper No. 10-13
Software is increasingly seen as a policy tool to influence societal concerns such as privacy, freedom of speech and intellectual property protection. A necessary step in this process is deciding what the ‘settings’ should be for the relevant software. One powerful setting in software is defaults. This article puts forth a framework for how default settings should be determined. This normative approach towards software settings stands apart from most previous scholarship, which focuses on the effect of software.
The framework is illustrated with an example of an incorrectly set default in Apple’s Airport Extreme wireless access point. Policymakers can influence competition, security, and privacy by relying on this framework. We believe that the manipulation of software to enhance social welfare is a powerful tool and a useful complement to traditional legal methods.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 20
Keywords: defaults, policy, software, regulation, codeAccepted Paper Series
Date posted: February 13, 2011 ; Last revised: February 23, 2011
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