intrusive defaults


One way quality products stand out from their bugging counterparts, is by supplying sensible default settings. Many might argue, that you can adapt a FreeDesktop to your liking much better, than is possible with a Mac. Though in practise many might never spend the effort to unbug their personal computers.

One bug modern propriety systems seem to have imho, is they try to enforce their default settings, even if you do spend the effort to adapt them to your liking. Let me give you an example: Generally, I am not fond of my phone creating a trace of where I have been on Google servers, which is why I actively decided to switch off this feature. After following my Android based devices wish to update to its newest version, a notification popped up, asking me to review my location settings. It mentioned that location tracking was currently disabled. When I tapped the notification – to follow my devices request to review my settings – I ended up on a screen with a button, for the location setting on this device… turned on. I had to actively change a setting, in order to keep my configuration.

My very clear conclusion is, that Google prefers I have this setting switched on. Even though they know I want it switched off, they silently activate it, requiring me to carefully read every bit of their bloated communication in order to keep my settings. I find this annoying. I originally was not even interested in updating my phone, let alone spent brainpower on the update. I was dealing with other things, which required my attention.

I wish technology would respect my choices as a user as good as possible, instead of trying to trick me into setting someone else’s choices.

If it is good for Google to record my movement, and they hope to have me change my mind, I think they should write openly about it. They should present what has changed since last time I made my choice, mention what they gain from it and whatever else could be reason to change my mind. Some text like “Dear user, please enable this tracking feature. We think it is very useful to you, and it enables us to earn more money. Besides public authorities are pressing to have this information available and the whole process of profiling the public could be made smoother and would require less breaching of contracts. For the sake of lawful operation, please reconsider. We offer a sweet new emoticon that will be available while you comply with our suggested default settings as a thank you. Furthermore trying to protect your privacy has never before seemed less pathetic than today. Don’t be a frog, enjoy with us. Yours sincerly”.

I then could examine the arguments and reconsider. If I then would change my settings, I would be able to celebrate my conversion, a fresh breeze in my antiquated believes. The way it is done now, however, by changing settings in the background while presenting a whirling “please wait”-circle, leaves me with a bad feeling. A feeling that my device has an “intelligence” of its own. An “intelligence” that is not designed to respect my choices. An “intelligence” that is shaping a scenario in which my personal choices within contracts don’t represent my personal opinion anymore.

Good defaults are important and convenient. Respecting divergence from, and different defaults is essential.

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