Friday

Opt-In And Opt-Out

In life, things sometimes come with strings attached. In fact, a lot of the time things come with strings attached. The strings may not be immediately visible, or seem particularly cumbersome or pernicious at first, but beware. We have a sometimes sneaky device known as opting-in, or opting-out of the stringy part. 



A high-profile current example; when you update Oracle's Java software (and you will find yourself updating it quite a bit), you need to actively opt-out of installing the Ask toolbar, a wretched "browser enhancement". Oracle (already a huge, profitable company) makes a few pennies every time the Ask toolbar is installed, so they install it by default unless you are paying enough attention to opt-out by unchecking a selection during the upgrade.

This is one of those "in the fine print" types of things. Most software (and other services) have insanely long and deliberately obscure "agreements" that may bind you into all kinds of unexpected "strings attached" arrangements. More often than not, you find yourself actively having to opt-out. Very seldom do you get the opt-in choice; "Hey, if you want us to keep sending you two or three emails a day from now on, we'll be glad to - just check here." Often, these types of things impact your privacy (what little you may have left).

Another current, but higher-tech, example in the UK that seems to me to be particularly egregious is that of the smart trash cans. Yes, we now do have such a thing in London courtesy of the recent Olympic Games, and they have screens which will display ads or occasionally public service information on them. These have now been updated to sniff out the passing smartphones and use the data it gathers for  - what? 

Whatever it is, passers-by are not expecting their smartphones to be queried by a trashcan, nor that they need to opt-out of the process.

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