Setting online policy with software defaults

Rajiv C. Shah, Jay P Kesan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)989-1007
Number of pages19
JournalInformation Communication and Society
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2008


  • Code
  • Defaults
  • Policy
  • Regulation
  • Software

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Library and Information Sciences


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