When Facebook launched its new 'frictionless sharing' with the Washington Post and
Wall Street Journal*, it was natural to ask: why isn't the New York Times one of the launch partners? It turns out that the Times was asked and declined. Former Times developer Michael Donohoe explained why on his blog (emphasis mine).
Earlier this year when I was still at the Times we talked to Facebook about a news app. Facebook had a whole set of new features in the pipeline (presumably just launched) and this passive reading action was one of them and they were pushing hard for us to use it. It came up in conference calls and on-site meetings. I believe Facebook is very eager to catch-up or even displace Twitter as a go-to place for news, and this is how they think they can do that.
To their credit the newsroom shelved the idea. The consensus was that this was intrusive and potentially an invasion of privacy. I think after that was repeatedly communicated that Facebook lost interest in doing anything at all.
I think its one thing to broadcast your taste in music, but what you're reading raises the stakes a bit. For now, all I have is this isolated case but everything has a beginning.
What's important here, I think, is that Facebook is trying to push the idea that their version of 'frictionless sharing' is some kind of inevitable technological development about which people have no choice. "It's like resisting cars, boyo!" But the idea that technologies run these independent paths with no intermediation from humans is far from established fact. People shape technologies as much as technologies shape people. When's the last time you heard about supersonic flight? That was supposed to be the next big thing! But it had some problems and people said, "No, thanks."
There are an almost infinite number of technologically possible products and actions that we choose, as a society, not to engage in. We could all have webcams in our showers and those broadcasts could be played randomly in loops on websites and a billboard in Times Square. There could even be a company built around installing those webcams. They'd even cut you in on the advertising revenue. You don't have to do anything! Just get in your shower like normal and they'd make sure daily images of your naked body generated you some money. I push the point to absurdity, but I'm as keen to protect the privacy of my mind as the privacy of my body.