Update: Google admits sharp practice in Kenya
By Stewart Mitchell
Posted on 13 Jan 2012 at 16:00
Google has admitted guilt after being accused of accessing the servers of a Kenyan business directory and trying to poach its customers.
According to contacts compendium Mocality, it caught Google accessing its database of African businesses and then fraudulently cold calling them to offer inclusion in the Google-owned rival Getting Kenyan Businesses Online (GKBO).
Mocality claims the cold callers said they were calling from GKBO and that they were working in collaboration with Mocality, while in reality they were trying to persuade customers to jump ship.
“Since October, Google’s GKBO appears to have been systematically accessing Mocality’s database and attempting to sell their competing product to our business owners,” said Stefan Magdalinski, Mocality CEO, on the company website, which details the investigation.
“I did not expect to find a human-powered, systematic, months-long, fraudulent attempt to undermine our business
“They have been telling untruths about their relationship with us, and about our business practices, in order to do so. As of January 11th, nearly 30% of our database has apparently been contacted.”
Mocality set up a sting operation to try and find out who was collecting the data and who was making the calls. It turned out to be Google, which has been left red-faced and forced to apologise.
"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," said Nelson Mattos, vice-president for product and engineering for Google in Europe and emerging markets.
"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."
The accusations followed a detailed forensic review of data logs by Mocality after businesses phoned to report having received strange calls.
In tracking down the guilty party, Mocality studied its server logs to look for a common pattern for the businesses that had contacted it over cold calls, and found a single IP/User-Agent combination that had accessed all these businesses shortly before they had received calls.
Armed with the user identifiers, apparently coming from a Kenyan ISP, Mocality said it altered some company data when the rogue ID accessed the site and served up fake contact details redirecting the visitor to a phone number controlled by Mocality.
In each case, Mocality said, shortly after the contact details were accessed the company received a call from a salesman claiming to be working with GKBO in conjunction with Mocality.
When the calls continued afresh from a different IP address shortly after Christmas, Mocality continued its forensics push and could not believe what it found. The new accesses were coming directly from Google’s network, Mocality claimed, with a Whois search revealing the company's Mountain View registration.
“When we started this investigation, I thought that we’d catch a rogue call-centre employee, point out to Google that they were violating our terms and conditions, someone would get a slap on the wrist, and life would continue,” said Magdalinski.
“I did not expect to find a human-powered, systematic, months-long, fraudulent (falsely claiming to be collaborating with us, and worse) attempt to undermine our business, being perpetrated from call centres on two continents.
"As an admirer of Google’s usually bold ethical stance around the world, to find those principles are not applied in Kenya is simply saddening."
Google has yet to respond to a request for comment made this morning.
What happened to Googles "do no harm" mantra - Weren't they also accused of profiteering from the illegal sale of London Olympic tickets recently as reported on the BBC. As it was reported, they decided to keep the profits !!!
Great mantra Google until it gets in the way of making money
By pauld1024 on 13 Jan 2012
Who else? Where else?
If Google are doing this in Kenya where else are they doing it?
If Google are doing this who else are doing similar things?
I think this calls for a PCPro investigation.
By richardcrawshaw on 13 Jan 2012
Perhaps a new company mantra is in order
DON'T get caught BEing EVIL
By QPW2012 on 14 Jan 2012
...Android will be out there everywhere (like it pretty much is now).
Although Microsoft aren't perfect I trust them a LOT more than Google!
By rhythm on 14 Jan 2012
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