Google accused of stealing info from rival Kenyan business database

Mocality, a business database service in Kenya, is going after Google for using Mocality’s data to sell Google services, and for allegedly making false claims about Mocality’s business practices.

On Friday, Mocality posted a blog entry detailing how Google has been using data on Mocality to find local business information, and then calling those businesses to offer competing services. Mocality reported that Google Kenya representatives said in one phone call to a local business that Mocality works under and with Google. In a separate occurrence, a Google rep said Mocality uses bait-and-switch tactics to get companies to pay for their listings. Mocality makes it clear in the post that it does not charge businesses for listing services, nor is it affiliated with Google.

Starting in September 2011, Mocality began getting unusual correspondence from customers asking for help with website building, a service that Mocality does not offer. After some investigation, Mocality discovered that Google had been accessing Mocality’s public data and using it to contact businesses to sell website development and database services from Getting Kenyan Businesses Online (GKBO), a facet of Google’s global small business assistance service.

Google’s official statement comes from Nelson Mattos, the Vice-President for Product and Engineering, Europe and Emerging Markets:

“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 apologized 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.”

Google is still looking into the matter. From our understanding, a team from Google Kenya improperly used data from Mocality to find new customers for GKBO, going against Google’s standards to use this type of data. While Mocality’s information was available to the public, Mocality’s terms and conditions forbid the use of its data for commercial purposes.<

While Mocality’s frustration is understandable, the Google Kenya’s employees were also just doing their jobs — finding new customers for their service. However, the way the Google employees presented themselves when trying to gain new customers — by allegedly telling lies and improperly obtaining business data — is just shady business.

Thumbnail image via Shutterstock

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