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Setting Online Policy with Software Defaults

Information, Communication, and Society, Vol. 11, No. 3, October 2008

Illinois Public Law Research Paper No. 10-13

20 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2011 Last revised: 11 Mar 2014

Rajiv C. Shah

University of Illinois at Chicago - Department of Communication; Illinois State University

Jay P. Kesan

University of Illinois College of Law

Date Written: October 11, 2008

Abstract

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.

Keywords: defaults, policy, software, regulation, code

Suggested Citation

Shah, Rajiv C. and Kesan, Jay P., Setting Online Policy with Software Defaults (October 11, 2008). Information, Communication, and Society, Vol. 11, No. 3, October 2008; Illinois Public Law Research Paper No. 10-13. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1760120

Rajiv Shah

University of Illinois at Chicago - Department of Communication ( email )

1200 W Harrison St
Chicago, IL 60607
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.rajivshah.com

Illinois State University ( email )

Normal, IL 61790
United States

Jay P. Kesan (Contact Author)

University of Illinois College of Law ( email )

504 E. Pennsylvania Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820
United States
217-333-7887 (Phone)
217-244-1478 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.jaykesan.com

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