There's a transparent toilet ad outside my office—and a VPN firm made it

Surfshark's truck featuring a transparent toilet and a person inside in London, in front of Future PLC's office on May 9, 2024.
The London office of Future PLC was one of the stops of Surfshark's truck featuring a transparent toilet and a person inside to raise awareness on data privacy issues online, (Image credit: Future)

Imagine heading out of your office to grab some lunch and stumbling upon a truck with a guy casually sitting on a toilet in the middle of a transparent cargo space. Well, that's what happened to me and my colleagues yesterday, May 09, 2024, in London.

The bizarre scene isn't part of a movie, a pranks, or a bet gone wrong. It's actually a provocative act of guerrilla marketing from one of the best VPN providers on the market. "How much are you willing to share?" That's Surfshark's message, written in giant letters on the side of the truck standing in front of us. 

Surfshark chose London to question people's tendency to jeopardize our privacy in today's digital landscape. Most of us are ready to post the most sensitive and private moments of our lives on social media platforms for a handful of likes. Contradictorily, though, we have precise boundaries when it comes to the offline world—but perhaps that shouldn't be the case.

A data privacy paradox

A VPN, short for virtual private network, is security software that aims to boost anonymity online to hide activity. As such, it's part of Surfshark's daily routine to monitor all the different issues related to online privacy.

The firm has been vocal about data breaches for a long time. For example, Surfshark's research team put together a Data Breach Map that records incidents that have occurred over the past 20 years. The numbers are shocking: approximately 6.5 billion unique user accounts were compromised.

"Data leaks persist as an ongoing global threat. Since 2004, a total of 17.2B accounts have been breached, and approximately 6.5B of them have unique email addresses. That means a single email address is breached around 3 times on a global scale," says Lina Survila, a spokesperson at Surfshark.

This data is scary, but not completely new. The usage of VPNs, antivirus software, and similar tools proves that increasingly more people are aware of these online risks. 

However, it's still not enough to stop people from using data-hungry services like Meta or Google, or sharing personal information on the internet daily. Even children cannot escape adults' sharenting activities, which is the morbid fascination of broadcasting their childhood online. How many parents would install a public camera in their kids' bedrooms in real life?

This friction between people's attitudes towards privacy in the offline and online world is known as the data privacy paradox. Surfshark's experiment seeks to make people question why they are comfortable sharing intimate data on their social accounts, but not this intimate (and most natural) act.

"The campaign aims to raise a discussion on online privacy—just like you wouldn’t want the walls of your loo to be transparent, you shouldn’t want your data to be easily accessible by third (and potentially malicious) parties," Survila told me. "We want people to take their privacy seriously by being careful when sharing data online and using proper cybersecurity tools (like a VPN and antivirus) when browsing the internet."

To spread its message, the company drove around a single transparent truck with a toilet across various locations in London throughout the day. While Tower Bridge served as its main stop, Surfshark also visited busy office areas, including TechRadar, and stopped for approximately half an hour at each location.

Surfshark's choice to execute its awareness campaign in London doesn't happen in a vacuum, either. The UK has witnessed a considerable rise in data breach incidents since 2004, jumping to #7 of the most affected nations worldwide according to Surfshark. The firm has estimated that a staggering one billion personal records have been exposed during this period.

"On average, each email address is leaked with three additional data points, amplifying personal information exposure risk," the provider explained, adding that 238 million leaked passwords have also left 74% of breached Brits users vulnerable to potential account takeover.

"We believed it was essential to draw attention to these alarming statistics. London's dynamic atmosphere provided an ideal backdrop for initiating crucial conversations about privacy and challenging the status quo," Survila told me.

The campaign received lots of attention on the streets, in fact, with people shouting in amazement and snapping pictures.

People taking picture of Surfshark's transparent truck with toilet in London on May 9, 2024

"Our ultimate aim is for individuals to reconsider their attitudes towards privacy," Lina Survila, Surfshark's spokesperson. (Image credit: Surfshark)

This isn't the first time Surfshark took to the street with a provocative stunt to stir the public's consciences on privacy-related matters. The team installed a 2.5-meter-tall pink pipe spilling a thick green slime in front of the new German home of the "Big Five" tech giants in Munich in October last year. "Your data is leaking. Protect your online data," was the message.

"Despite minor differences, both campaigns share the core objective of making the concept of privacy, or the lack of it, more tangible," Survila told me.

While the team doesn't intend to replicate the transparent loo campaign in other cities, Survila reiterates Surfshark's beliefs in leveraging shock value to effectively convey important ideas. 

She said: "We’re planning a few more privacy-focused campaigns in London and New York, so stay tuned for updates!"


We test and review VPN services in the context of legal recreational uses. For example:

1. Accessing a service from another country (subject to the terms and conditions of that service).

2. Protecting your online security and strengthening your online privacy when abroad.

We do not support or condone the illegal or malicious use of VPN services. Consuming pirated content that is paid-for is neither endorsed nor approved by Future Publishing.

Chiara Castro
Senior Staff Writer

Chiara is a multimedia journalist committed to covering stories to help promote the rights and denounce the abuses of the digital side of life—wherever cybersecurity, markets and politics tangle up. She mainly writes news, interviews and analysis on data privacy, online censorship, digital rights, cybercrime, and security software, with a special focus on VPNs, for TechRadar Pro, TechRadar and Tom’s Guide. Got a story, tip-off or something tech-interesting to say? Reach out to