Microsoft 'Scroogled' campaign gets early holiday gift: Google evangelist calls privacy an 'anomaly'

Just as Microsoft kicks its anti-Google 'Scroogled' campaign into high gear, it's gotten an early holiday gift. Google's head Internet evangelist said in a speech that privacy may be an "anomaly" -- and an unsustainable one at that.

Microsoft's Scroogled campaign targets Google in many different ways, but hits hardest on privacy, trying to create an image of Google as Big Brother out to invade the privacy of anyone who uses its services. Visit the Scroogled site today, for example, and you'll be greeted by this:

Is Google breaking wiretap laws when they read your Gmail?

A federal judge ruled they could be.

Google goes through every Gmail that's sent or received, looking for keywords so they can target Gmail users with paid ads. And there's no way to opt out of this invasion of your privacy.

And that's just a start. There multiple videos about privacy issues, and other anti-Google charges as well, against Google services such as shopping and Google Play, Google's app store.

Microsoft also has opened up a Scroogled store, selling anti-Google T shirt, mugs, and hats. Some of them carry Google's Chrome logo with the slogan, "Keep calm while we steal your data." Another shows the Chrome logo dressed like a spy, with the words "I'm Watching You" on it.

So imagine Microsoft's glee when the company finds out what Google's chief internet evangelist, Vint Cerf said yesterday about privacy in a speech before the Federal Trade Commission. The Verge reports that Cerf said:

"Privacy may actually be an anomaly."

He added that he's not sure that privacy is sustainable, saying that "it will be increasingly difficult for us to achieve privacy."

Now, Cerf is a very, very smart guy, and with good reason has been called one of the "fathers of the Internet" because of his work in co-designing the TCP/IP protocol suite that underlies it, among other accomplishments. He's also very insightful about the intersection between technology and society.

In his speech he argued that technology and industrialization actually created privacy, because before then, people typiucally lived in smaller towns in which there was no privacy because "In a town of 3,000 people there is no privacy. Everybody knows what everybody is doing." He claimed

"It’s the industrial revolution and the growth of urban concentrations that led to a sense of anonymity."

But he also warned that technology, particularly when it comes to the use of social networks, endanger privacy and anonymity. All in all, what he had to say was thoughtful. But it will be easy to criticize his "anomaly" statement,

So don't be surprised if Microsoft makes his speech part of its Scroogled campaign. T-shirts reading "My privacy is not an anomaly," perhaps?

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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