In this hilarious video, John Hargrave of the humor website Zug.com pranks Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg by making him the victim of his own company’s poor privacy policies. In an article explaining the prank—which is just as funny as the video—Hargrave says he signed up for a “free cell phone records” site to see if he could find the unlisted numbers and home addresses of the big three telecom CEOs. Unfortunately, only Seidenberg had a unique enough name to produce a singular result. And so he became the patsy.
Hargrave’s prank invokes a good mixture of seriousness and humor. Speaking through a bullhorn he calls on Seidenberg to “Please do a better job protecting your customers’ cell phone records. Everyone has the right to privacy, including you Ivan. When we don’t have privacy then freaks with bullhorns start showing up.” He then repeatedly uses the Verizon catchphrase, “Can you hear me now?” Each time increasing the volume of his megaphone.
Ultimately, Hargrave is chased away by “a middle-aged man, walking quickly with his large dog.” But that man, unfortunately, was not Ivan, just an angry member of his private community.
I can’t help but wish, just a little bit, that Hargrave had the nerve to stick around and not leave saying, “Sorry about that!” Although I certainly understand how a vicious and fast approaching dog, as he explains it, can be quite frightening, Hargrave did have a companion filming the whole event. It would have been interesting to at least ask Seidenberg’s neighbor what he thought of Verizon’s inadequate security measures.
Fortunately, viral videos have a force behind them that can more than make up for such shortcomings. It doesn’t matter that Seidenberg never showed up or that Hargrave never elicited a substantial response from the neighbors. They look like fools because Hargrave has humor, truth and editing on his side.
In some sense, the real protest is taking place online. Sure, Hargrave committed a physical solitary action. But the full effect of it is only now beginning to be seen and felt, as others are able to virtually engage by watching and then spreading the word. Some 4,500 to be exact.
I’m guessing Ivan Seidenberg can hear John Hargrave now.
As autocrats become savvier in using technology to repress dissent, activists are striving to preserve the benefits of digital activism and mitigate the risks.
Environmental activist Evgeniya Chirikova once helped save a forest in Moscow. Now she’s trying to give voice to Russian activists and journalists resisting Putin’s regime.
Facing extreme poverty and a lack of basic services, a movement in Rajasthan is renewing its push for an ambitious law to hold officials accountable.