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The default sharing of you -- a data privacy nightmare

You go, business pro, and so goes your privacy. [Rant on] You loved your phone but one day a useful part of it breaks…a sad day all around -- amazingly right at the end of the 2-year contract with a carrier. We’ll just call that a coincidence. Today that time period is referred to as a payment plan [and one has the option of paying for the phone in full.] But that is not the topic for today – nor is the topic about the default on Chrome that can no longer be switched off which automatically plays videos. No, today’s rant is about that other torment, shall we say, the Tyranny of the Default – which made an unwelcome appearance, in every sense of the word, on my new phone. That bit of psychology is what is built in to new versions of software – it is both condescending and malevolent at the same time.

How many apps are there in the out-of-box experience? Well, we’re talking about the operating system of the device and every single application that is installed on it.  And the list of applications is a default set – shipping with the product.   Sometimes, as with Chrome, one might want to reset to the defaults.  Maybe you discover that auto-play of videos for advertisers is now built into Chrome -- this may not be good for surfing the web in meetings -- and has some enraged and switching to Firefox or Opera, with settings to stop auto-play. For smartphone users who use the average of 27 (yup, that’s 27!!) apps, a new phone could present a bit of a challenge. Easy – make the unneeded shortcuts disappear. More work -- uninstall the unwanted. More work, select (from some source) the wanted apps.  Maybe you started out with 35 out of the iPhone box -- and inadvertently left in the Sent from My iPhone signature, free advertising for Apple! -- or maybe you stared stunned at the 50 pre-installed apps (NFL Football?) for the new Galaxy S8

The problem: Free software doesn't make you FREE.  In fact, just the opposite.  The user of software is now in a perpetual state of discovery of perhaps useless 'new features' that can, like the Moments app, be accompanied by threats from Facebook to delete photos on a phone if you don't download their app. We have all seen the message -- system update, now or postpone to a date certain. The Chrome auto-play 'feature' is not for you to look at cat videos. Advertisers must and will find you, whether it is through upgrade torture or not-so-veiled threats, slowing down content delivery, it's mostly 'free' and thus the preferences of the user are easily ignored.

The problem: the defaults are all about sharing YOU. Whether it is Facebook privacy rules and disastrous live sharing, consider Google Hangouts – a charming multi-device app, right? But if you have a brand new Galaxy S8, the default for Hangouts is to enable permissions to access the phone’s Camera, Contacts, Location, Microphone, Phone, SMS and Storage, each of which must individually have App Permissions set to Off -- because the defaults are set to On. So let’s say this phone sells between 25 million or more.  Let’s say that 42% of those buyers are 65+. Conservative guess is that 10 million seniors globally will buy this new phone. Examining the permissions, setting the defaults to Off in individual apps, like Hangouts – only the determined (or crazy) will bother, no matter what age – as okayed by Congress for ISPs in March.  But that vote was a meaningless discussion about closing the barn door after powerful marketer inhabitants (like Google and Facebook) have long departed. [Rant off]