Skip to main content

Microsoft's mugs are rubbish - but they've got a point

Microsoft's mugs are rubbish but right
You mugs

Oh, Microsoft. The entire internet's laughing at your anti-Google mugs. "Keep Calm While We Steal Your Data" isn't funny, and it isn't exactly current either. What's next? Wayne's World parodies?

It's the perfect internet story - Microsoft tries to be funny and fails miserably - and as a result it's getting coverage all over the place. But while Microsoft's motivation may be suspect and its comedy questionable, the point it's making - albeit really, really badly - is a good one.

What's happening to your privacy?

Turning up the temperature

This week, it emerged that LG smart TVs may be recording and uploading data about users' viewing habits, something that's illegal in the UK. It also emerged that the US National Security Agency, which recently boasted about intercepting various tech giants' communications, has been spying on UK citizens who aren't suspected of any illegal or even dodgy behaviour - something that is of dubious legality to say the least.

That's just this week. Also this week, Google's internet evangelist Vint Cerf reckons that "privacy may be an anomaly" and Eric Schmidt refuses to "pass judgement" on spying.

So on the one hand we've got Google making appalled noises about the NSA and the importance of user privacy, and on the other we've got the same firm - and many other tech giants; this isn't just a Google thing - effectively telling us that privacy is dead and we might as well get over it.

Where's the outrage over that?

I suspect that when it comes to privacy, we're frogs in a pot. According to legend, if you put a frog in a pot of boiling water it'll immediately leap out again - but if you put it in cool water and keep increasing the temperature, it won't notice the danger until it's too late.

If you'd told us a few years back that going online would subject innocent UK citizens to indiscriminate US state surveillance, that faraway firms would track us around the internet and record every conceivable bit of data so they could sell it on, and that TV manufacturers would apparently think it was okay to spy on their customers, we'd have been marching down the high street with flaming torches.

Instead, we're mocking Microsoft.

Then again, maybe it's fitting: the original Keep Calm campaign was a resounding failure that many saw as patronising. If Microsoft wants to raise awareness of privacy, maybe it should should try copying a campaign that actually worked.

Carrie Marshall


Former lion tamer, Girls Aloud backing dancer and habitual liar Carrie Marshall (Twitter, Google+) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to .net, MacFormat, Tap! and Official Windows Magazine as well as co-writing stacks of how-to tech books. "My job is to cut through the crap," she says. "And there's a lot of crap."