Your Product Team Needs to Stop Being Bad Actors

During the Facebook emotional contagion mess I learned about this rule researchers are supposed to honor when doing testing on people: don’t be a bad actor.

Don’t do a negative to someone and then judge how they react.

I learned about this again during Facebook’s harming of Android users by making their devices feel buggy by crashing the app to see if they would stop using Facebook.

Twitter has a thing in their app called In Case You Missed It and if you ask Twitter not to show it to you they say, “Ok we won’t show you this,” then immediately show it to you every time you open the app again.

Giving users the appearance of choice that does not do what they say is being a bad actor.

I think designers and developers should agree to this too. In iOS 11 and watchOS 4 this week Apple changed the control center to be the illusion of control center. The options to limit location tracking, limit data from going over free WiFi networks, and save battery by turning off WiFi and Bluetooth went away.

When you truly have WiFi or Bluetooth off in iOS 11 the icon is grey and has a line through the icon. By control center only, you can only disconnect from the current WiFi or Bluetooth device, but not turn it off completely. To turn it off completely you have to dive deep into the Settings app and toggle a switch.

This means if you have ever used WiFi at a chain restaurant like Starbucks and you are riding a bus in San Francisco your phone will repeatedly ask you to agree to Google’s terms of service even though by the time you might want to tap OK to connect you are blocks away. This is currently breaking the new Apple Watch Series 3 with Cellular and preventing the cellular network from making the watch work even though you are paying a monthly fee for cellular.

When a user turns off WiFi and Bluetooth they expect to save battery life. That is not the case anymore. Your device is still reachable and being pinged and tracked by WiFi networks and Bluetooth beacons. Apple uses this to send you notifications about iPads when you stand near iPads in the Apple Store while you have the Apple Store iPhone app installed. Battery still drains at the same rate or more than if you had just left them turned on.

Security fanatics have told people for years not to connect to public WiFi, but let's be honest: cell phone data caps are easy to hit and sometimes you just want to check the news while waiting at Starbucks. But you may not want to connect to Starbucks WiFi every time you go in there. Apple no longer lets you choose that. They present the same choice they have since they introduced Control Center in 2013 with iOS 7 but they no longer really care what your choice is.

When product teams act this way they are actively fucking with the user in a negative way.