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If you have a "Send anonymous usage statistics" checkbox in your application, should it be enabled by default or not? If you have it enabled by default, you will probably get more statistics, but some privacy-fanatics might get angry.

So should it be enabled by default or not?

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How about "some privacy fanatics might get angry, sue you, and force you to discard your entire database since you cannot prove that anyone consented"? Do you know how big a pain it is if you have to scrub data even from your backups? –  MSalters Aug 5 '13 at 9:46

3 Answers 3

No. Always allow the user to opt-in.

You could prompt the user the first time the app is ran, with a message explaining why it would be a great idea for them to join, but I would default off.

Automatic opt in causes the PERCEPTION of your app to be "shady" for some people. This perception has a big influence on the total UX.

And what's more - this can, and will, extend to other apps you write - potentially loosing other future sales.

Make your app above-board, and you'll have more people using your app - even if fewer people opt in, you'll get more data.

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+1 though I'd leave out the "if at all possible" –  Marjan Venema Aug 3 '13 at 9:23
    
@Marjan Venema - agreed, and edited. –  Don Nickel Aug 5 '13 at 12:01
    
I agree that the checkbox shouldn't be checked, but you can make it fairly visible, since users easily can miss it otherwise. Since it's not checked I doubt that someone will get bad feeling for your company. Further - be sure to tell the user how the statistics will be used (e.g., "the data will not be sent to other companies" if that's the case etc). That will increase the number of volunteers. –  Henrik Ekblom Aug 5 '13 at 13:39

It should not be, this is one of those situations where you go tot he core principles and do what's right for the customers. In long term sticking to core principles would add tremendous value to business, but if one deviates, it's a slippery slope. Be the voice for customer.

Still, the data is valuable.. see how you can enourge users to accept it.. Tell them their privacy is safe (if it truly is), tell them What's in it for them - it'll help us build better solutions for them etc. Don't just treat it like a functionality, but as customer communication - humanize it.

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Opt-in is far better than opt-out for user perception - and probably regulatory issues as well if you are in some region (e.g. EU) which has strict privacy and data protection standards. As Don Nickel pointed out, negative perception is a likely result of sneaky default-checked prompts, I can attest that personally I am far more suspicious of such sites or programs. Of course, it also depends on your audience and can be permissible in specific cases.

There's an article on leaving opt-in unchecked being a better option at Nielsen-Norman site: http://www.nngroup.com/articles/mailing-list-usability/. Depending on your application's use case, their Request Marketing article might help as well.

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