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Facebook and Privacy: Default Settings Influence Choices

When you control the defaults in your product or website, you have the power to shape human behavior.

We touched on the matter of how you can influence users’ decisions on a form back during the presidential campaign, when we looked at the John McCain contribution form. If you were to make a form where the default contribution is $200, you imply that it is the amount that normal people donate. People will probably contribute less, but they’re bound to contribute more money than if you had set the default value to $10.

The recent story on Mashable, “Facebook Founder on Privacy: Public Is the New ‘Social Norm,’” reminded me of the power and responsibility that comes with being able to design choices for people. Mark Zuckerberg stated that the default settings on Facebook would be to share your data on the open web rather than restricting it to your friends. They changed the default with the expectation that most people would simply accept the default of sharing their data, and thereby increasing the value of Facebook.

Whether you agree with it or not, this is a reminder that design choices have consequences.

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