On May 8 in Berlin, at the 2014 edition of Re:publica – one of Europe’s most popular tech conferences – two activists masquerading as Google employees presented a new Google product called Nest. It features fake privacy-encroaching products that seem all too much like something that Google would actually make. The parody products include insurance against data theft and leaks (‘Google Trust’), a personal drone for daily life (‘Google Bee’), a location-based crowd-sourced hug matching (Google Hug’), and a memorial for the departed made possible through data mining (‘Google Bye’).
A collaboration of Info-activism camp participants Jean Peters (starring as Google’s ‘Paul von Ribbeck’) and Faith Bosworth (as the ‘hard to place’ ‘Dr. Gloria Spindle’), both from the Peng! Collective, the joke got attention from several hundreds sitting in the Re:publica audience, thousands of live stream listeners and Youtube videos viewers, German and international media – including die Zeit, Forbes, and Fast Company as well as support from several German NGOs and members of political parties (read more here). The Re:publica audience was invited to join in the joke after the presentation. Many played along, some took it seriously, and the hoax was spread through tweets. #googlenest trended in Germany for 5 hours and the website received over 35 000 visits in its first day.
Google contributed to #googlenest ‘s popularity by an official statement that they had nothing to do with the joke. They have also sent a request to hand over the Nest URL or to display clearly thereon that content is satirical. The site is now “down”, but has been mirrored and archived and it also lives its postmortem life, the Google-like candle testifying to Google’s fear of others’ launching Bye before they do. The initiative continues to inspire others. As for Google, one can understand them: it’s easy to get paranoid in these times. Follow: @PengBerlin #googlenest