One of the things that we face everyday in the real world and online are choices. However, studies show that if people are given a default choice, along with others most people will choose the default choice. This is true in the both in the real world and online. Advertisers, companies like Google, Facebook and even politicians have known this for years. This is one of the main reasons that politicians fight hard to be first on the ballot and companies always list their preferred choice as the default choice when they have to give consumers an option. If you are a Facebook user, you know that one of the biggest complaints against Facebook is that the option to share your information has always been the default one. Facebook wants the user to make this choice and they know that most users will opt for the default choice. Often if you choose something other than the default choice you have to jump through multiple hoops to set up that choice up. Facebook is not alone in this type of behavior. This is a major reason that Google pays Mozilla and estimated 100 million dollars a year to be its default search engine.
Why are decisions made this way by consumers. Part of it is laziness, it is just easier to use the default choice, consumers often feel overwhelmed when given a lot of choices. However it is more than that, subconsciously we see the default choice as the one that the authorities recommend and therefore the best choice. This is one of the major issues that the Federal Trade Commission is dealing with when it comes to the issue of privacy online. Advertisers and companies like Facebook and Google want the choices they give to consumers to be self-regulated. Privacy advocates would like there to be more government oversight and regulation. Unfortunately for privacy advocates more choices is not the answer. When users are provided with multiple privacy tool options they often find the choices confusing and too complicated. Often they make choices that do little to protect their privacy, whether they want that protection or not. So more choices is clearly not the answer. The answer may be fewer choices, with the default one being at a higher privacy setting being key.
To read more about default choices and the impact they have on our decision-making process see the New York Times article The Default Choice, So Hard to Resist.