An Open Source Hoax
In May 2014, Peng! Collective created two personas: "Google employees" Gloria Spindle and Paul von Ribbeck and sent them to Republica, Europe’s largest tech and innovation conference with over 5000 participants.
The products — Google Trust (data “insurance”), Google Bee (personal drones), Google Hug (a location-based crowdsourced hug matching) and Google Bye (an online profile for the afterlife), were supposedly created by Google after an assessment of user needs based on an analysis of emails and search results.
Watch the video of the product launch here
German NGOs, Digitalcourage and Digitale Gesellschaft and three members of political parties, Jan Philipp Albrecht from The Green Party, Julia Reda from the Pirate Party and Halina Wawzyniak from Die Linke, helped engineer the hoax by reacting against Google Nest in the media. Google Germany quickly tweeted to emphasize, if further emphasis were needed, that that it was a satire. It become even more obvious when Jan Josef Liefers, the actor from the German crime series, Tatort, appeared as the audience volunteer to test out Google Hug. An experience which he described with the line, “I feel used.” At the end of the presentation, the livestream was switched off and the audience was invited to join int he joke and spread the hoax in their own way.
And they did!
The #googlenest trended in Germany for 5 hours and the website received over 35 000 visits in its first day, coverage in all German media outlets and quite some international press. The future we presented was perhaps so disturbingly believable that the Google Trademark Team took just 12 hours to send us a request to display clearly on the website that it is a parody.
We hope this will remain a parody and not become reality. But to state it on the website would be to participate in a failure of humour.
You can read substantial media articles about the story in
- Die Zeit — Großes Theater um Google (Germany)
- Die Zeit — Das Google-Theater, zweiter Akt (Germany)
- Golem (Germany)
- DCTP (Germany)
- Vice Magazine (Germany)
- Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Switzerland)
- Forbes (USA)
- Fast Company (USA)
- Wired (Italy)
- Business Insider (Indonesia)
- Business Insider (Australia)
- CBC News (Canada)
- news24 (South Africa)
- The Times Of India (India)
And see Maike Gosch’s storify.
We've had legal help from JBB in Germany and the Electronic Frontier Foundation in the U.S. We have decided to not waste our time on a Trademark fight and on a guessing game as to whether Google will try to sue us or not. We needed to make the website as realistic looking as possible for our action to work and this means that of course we used Google’s trademarks.
And there will be more where this has come from don’t you worry. Peng! will strike again.
We want to take the opportunity to thank all those awesome people who helped pull off the prank and our wonderful designers Wigwam and Hannes Böttger who could, but thank god never would, work for Google. And everyone else who disagrees with the company’s unashamed monitoring of our behaviour and harvesting of our data. And those people who lent us their Google glass headset at the last minute just so that we could REALLY look the part!
Help us become as big as Google. Donate. flattr, Bitcoin, Paypal (we don’t suggest it because they also don’t care about your data).