The Fault in Default

According to Merriam Webster’s dictionary, the word default comes from de, meaning “of” or “from”, and the French verb faillir meaning “to fail”. The top definitions for default, as both a noun and a verb, all have to do with failing to do something.  The other definition refers to a selection made automatically, often in reference to a computer program.

I suppose that default settings are supposed to make life easier by assuming what the majority will prefer.  For example, Google recently released a new version of Gmail that automatically separates your email into 5 categories: Primary, Social (meaning notifications from social media sites), Promotions, Updates, and Forums.

New default categories from Google to presort your email.

New default categories from Google to presort your email.

I’m not sure if this is useful to people or not, but the point is Google gave it to me assuming that was what I wanted.  Now I have to make an effort to turn the feature off.  While I may end up liking the new system, I would have preferred to turn it on myself, or define my own categories for presorting my inbox.

I’ve noticed that a lot of devices, social media accounts, applications, etc. all start with a few basic defaults:

  1. Save everything
  2. Start with the lowest security/privacy settings – because sharing EVERYTHING is what connecting (and mining data) is about
  3. Stay logged in at ALL TIMES

This is not to say that there is no validity to the defaults, just that they’re not the ones that I prefer.  I’ve often noticed that Facebook updates often require me to adjust the privacy and security settings to ensure that I still have some!

As I log into my various accounts (social media, email, financial, etc.) throughout the day, options to:

  • remain logged in; and
  • save the password

are almost always selected automatically.  This means I need to make an additional keystroke to deselect the option.  Why can’t the option be offered without being automatically selected?  I’m certainly capable of deciding these two options for myself.

Some defaults can be changed through system settings, but others appear each time I login, regardless of settings.  I’m not qualifying default settings, I just don’t want the ones compromising my privacy and security preselected.

How do you feel about default settings?  Do you like to stay logged in and have your browser remember passwords?

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