I don’t know whether it were needs, wants or desires your friend was really referring to when he stated: “we don’t know what people want”. Apart from deep individual desires or idiosyncrasies, it is now possible to know with a very good degree of confidence what people really need or want, thanks to market/political survey science. More than what you stated here, perhaps he was referring to the fickleness of individual human nature.
More than (not bothering for) permission (ijazat), I think it is a question of reason or alibi (jwaz). In the majority of scenarios, the rational/western world (where media is particularly strong) still needs a reason to violate other’s autonomy. In some cases, they might need to find/create an alibi. More so because the world has evolved and we have traversed quite far from the stone age. Therefore, it is the responsibility of those (often weak) who cry about the violation to behave responsibly about the demands of a changing/fickle world order.
Psychology of power is a quite different field from that of economic behavior where equilibrium rules or is desired. The (struggle for) power is the antithesis of the level playing field. True power exhibits itself only when it is able to remove the level playing field.