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Summary:

Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has “apologised unreservedly” after its Kenyan outfit poached customers from a rival business directory by systematicall…

Larry Page
photo: Getty Images / Chris Hondros

Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has “apologised unreservedly” after its Kenyan outfit poached customers from a rival business directory by systematically accessing its database.

The CEO of local business directory startup Mocality, Stefan Magdalinski, says operatives from Getting Kenyan Businesses Online (GKBO), a Google-backed initiative to give small businesses free websites for one year, routinely accessed Mocality’s database to obtain sales leads.

They then called Mocality customers to pitch Google’s alternative service, claimed Magdalinski, who, after setting up a honey trap, was able to record calls from operatives for Google in both Kenya and india who claimed to have had a partnership with Mocality. Magdalinski says Mocality has no such partnership.

“As of January 11th, nearly 30% of our database has apparently been contacted,” he wrote. “We are in the business of creating local Kenyan content that Google can sell their adwords against. Google isn’t just scalping us, they’re also scalping every Kenyan who has participated in our program.”

A Google spokesperson tells paidContent: “We’re aware that a company in Kenya has accused us of using some of their publicly available customer data without permission. We are investigating the matter and will have more information as soon as possible.”

Update: Google gave paidContent this statement from its Europe and emerging markets product and engineering VP Nelson Mattos:

“We were mortified to learn that a team of people working on a Google project improperly used Mocality’s data and misrepresented our relationship with Mocality to encourage customers to create new websites.

“We’ve already unreservedly apologised to Mocality. We’re still investigating exactly how this happened, and as soon as we have all the facts, we’ll be taking the appropriate action with the people involved.”

Kenya’s internet penetration reached 9.7 percent in 2010, up from 8.6 percent a year earlier, according to the United Nation’s ITU unit.

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  1. Better… Though they should fire the person who gave the initial comment too though – major spin, total fail.

    1. What initial comment? Are you referring to this?

      “We’re aware that a company in Kenya has accused us of using some of their publicly available customer data without permission. We are investigating the matter and will have more information as soon as possible.”

      I don’t see any “spin” in that statement.

      1. “using some of their publicly available”

        This implies anyone could have done it and the degree to using this free information is mostly google being resourceful.

        It’s one thing to make a site that scrapes this Kenyan db and lifts it into their own (which goog basically does automatically).  But it’s another to directly poach customers and appear to be in an agreement with the competitor while lying about business practices.

        The spin is the downplay, the slap in the face that they’re using publicly available information, and nothing more.

      2. “Publicly available” isn’t a fair representation of Mocality’s terms of use. Plus it failed to mention anything about the key allegation which wasn’t just re-use, it was lying to Mocality’s userbase to try and poach them.

        A very selective response, designed in two ways to pretend the issue wasn’t as serious as it seemed = spin.

        (I gather from your website that you used to work at Google. Seems pertinent!)

        1. This is not about using the “Publicly avialble” information. Its about misrepresenation. There are clear evidences recorded with the Google rep’s stating that Mocality is partnered with Google
          http://blog.mocality.co.ke/2012/01/13/google-what-were-you-thinking/

  2. Apogised? 

    1. It’s fixed. Thanks for the note.

    2. American and English, English. 

  3. Relentlessfocus Friday, January 13, 2012

    Hopefully they’ll also do something to rectify Mocality’s loss of biz. But this is a positive step forward.

  4. Google, if their client list is good enough to prospect off of, perhaps now would be a good time to acqui-hire their team; a little cash and a commitment to continue to help Kenyan businesses get online would be a good PR solve…

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