Hubris, thy name is 'Scroogled'

Microsoft breathes new heat into Scroogled, its anti-Google campaign, with a line of products that burn Google for treating your data the same way Microsoft does. Not surprisingly, Google has fired back.

Seth Rosenblatt Former Senior Writer / News
Senior writer Seth Rosenblatt covered Google and security for CNET News, with occasional forays into tech and pop culture. Formerly a CNET Reviews senior editor for software, he has written about nearly every category of software and app available.
Seth Rosenblatt
2 min read
Microsoft's Scroogled mug pokes fun at Google's customer data mining. Nevermind that Microsoft behaves very similarly, of course. Microsoft

"Keep calm," warns Microsoft's Scroogled T-shirt and coffee mug, riffing on the World War II British motivational poster, "while we steal your data."

Wait, what? That's not very proper of them.

The new line of Scroogled outerwear and houseware (but not underwear) from the Microsoft Store cautions you against over sharing with Google, thanks to a Scroogled logo hat; a word cloud T-shirt with, as the description puts it, more than "20 synonyms for how Google is taking advantage of you;" and the aforementioned coffee mugs and T-shirts.

The description for the Spider Web T-shirt is equally sardonic. "Google is the spider. Google services are the spider web. You're the fly. You know what happens next," it reads.

A shirt featuring the Chrome browser logo wearing a fedora and a trench coat, playing off of Chrome's private browsing Incognito mode icon, sounds another alarm. "Do you use Google Search? Or Gmail? Or Google Chat? Or Chrome? Then Google is watching you...all the time."

Google, for its part, didn't let Microsoft's accusations faze it. "Microsoft's latest venture comes as no surprise; competition in the wearables space really is heating up," a Google spokesperson told CNET.

The new attacks on Google follow Microsoft's initial "Scroogled" campaign last year, but take on added weight under the US National Security Agency's spying revelations that most companies have the same practices for handling user data. There is irony in the utter lack of hubris from Microsoft's claims. Microsoft -- and Facebook, Yahoo, Apple, and most other major Internet tech firms -- treats customer data similar if not identical to Google, using it to both improve the products themselves and sell you ads.

Parker Higgins, an activist and spokesperson at the digital rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said there wasn't much difference between Google and Microsoft on the issue. "A campaign against Google by Microsoft on privacy raises eyebrows. In terms of security practices, Google is a little more aggressive about encryption," he said.

A Scroogled word cloud want you to associate some not-nice terms with Google. Microsoft

"If you're talking about which ads you see, it's possible that Microsoft has pulled ahead," he said. "It's difficult for a company like Microsoft to say that the way they're doing it respects your autonomy more. In fact, it's just a different style."

Microsoft did not immediately respond when asked for comment.

"Aside from this being a Microsoft campaign, the point stands if it's not being comparative," said Higgins, who said he's planning on buying one of the Scroogled T-shirts. "It's just not necessarily better if you switch to Microsoft."

Update, 10:48 a.m. PT on Thursday, November 21: Adds comment from Google.

Update, 4:10 p.m. PT: Adds comment from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.