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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: code; defaults; policy; regulation; software

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Communication, University of Illinois at Chicago, Bloomington, Illinois, United States 2: University of Illinois at Chicago of law, Champaign, IL, USA

Publication date: October 1, 2008

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