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Scroogled: Microsoft doubles down and flames out

Chris Dickman Mon, 12/09/2013 - 09:02

It's hard to remember but there once was a time when Microsoft was reviled for being some kind of incarnation of the Evil Empire. Folks referred to it as Microshaft or Micro$oft and you could buy t-shirts sporting an image of Bill Gates portrayed as the evil Borg from Star Trek. Microsoft had come to symbolize monolithic corporations that take advantage of their market dominance to restrict the choice of their customers. Yes, it was a more innocent era.

Cut to the present in which "we're-not-evil" Google has just been nailed for violating Dutch consumer data protection privacy laws. Surely an oversight? Perhaps, but a few weeks ago, following an investigation by the US Federal Trade Commission, the firm was fined $17 million for circumventing the privacy features of those using Apple's Safari browser. Must have been an accident. But prior to that the firm was fined $22 million by the US Federal Trade Commission for doing much the same thing. And the list goes on.

Okay, there does seem to be a consistent pattern of Google violating the privacy of its users. But this is probably just the result of overly-aggressive algorithms that are the work of rogue engineers. Can't be corporate policy. And yet Google evangelist and Internet deity Vint Cerf is quoted as recently saying at a recent Federal Trade Commission event, in reference to Gmail users, that "privacy may actually be an anomaly.” And CEO Eric Schmidt is on record as shrugging off accusations of privacy violations with a breezy "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." A case of the pot calling the kettle black, methinks.

Microsoft apparently couldn't resist what it saw as an opportunity to turn the tables on its nemesis by launching its Scroogled.com site, which provides a timeline of Google privacy violation incidents in an attempt to damage trust. The site recently extended the idea of Google pulling a fast one on its users into the domain of laptops. While Chromebook does have very real limitations, the video below fails to convincingly capitalize on them and winds up being merely pesky and patronizing. In fact, now I think of it, so much of what Microsoft does is annoying — and I'm a hard-core Windows user!

In that vein, a range of merchandise was recently added to the site, which bears the Scroogled logo or lame slogans such as "Step Into Our Web." Just pathetic. In fact, this is all very reminiscent of how Microsoft marketed not just the Zune (color: Brown) but just about all of its recent products and services. There is an existential hole in the middle of Microsoft big enough to drive a truck through and initiatives such as Scroogled simply draw attention to that. This feeble effort has now dragged on over year. Microsoft, please, do yourself a favor and move on. We all know that Google is evil. Don't make us think even less of you.