Setting Software Defaults: Perspectives from Law, Computer Science and Behavioral Economics

53 Pages Posted: 7 Jun 2006  

Jay P. Kesan

University of Illinois College of Law

Rajiv C. Shah

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

Abstract

Policymakers are increasingly pondering or evaluating the use of software and its influence on 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. In this paper, we build upon work in computer science, behavioral economics, and legal scholarship to establish a well-defined framework for how default settings in software should be determined. This normative approach towards software settings stands apart from most previous scholarship, which focuses on the effect of software settings.

Our recommendations include several scenarios where policymakers should intervene and ensure that defaults settings are set to enhance societal welfare. These recommendations are illustrated with three examples. If policymakers change the default settings in our examples, they would enhance competition, security, and privacy. We believe that the manipulation of software to enhance social welfare is a powerful tool and a useful complement to traditional legal methods.

Suggested Citation

Kesan, Jay P. and Shah, Rajiv C., Setting Software Defaults: Perspectives from Law, Computer Science and Behavioral Economics. Notre Dame Law Review, Vol. 82, pp. 583-634, 2006; U Illinois Law & Economics Research Paper No. LE06-012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=906816

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

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

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