In a case of a big multinational being caught pants down, search giant Google have found themselves on the wrong end of the stick and having to apolologize to a startup what it calls, “an unfortunate event”.
Kenyan startup Mocality, a local business directory that crowd sources its database of businesses, published a post accusing Google of ripping it off of its hard earned database of some 170,000 local businesses by using their Mocality-listed contacts to call them and offer them a competing product. The startup had used over $100,000 to pay the public to add businesses to their database.
It all started with the Google led initiative Getting Kenyan Businesses Online or KBO where Google offered local businesses a simple website free of charge in order to encourage and spur the creation of local content. This service was also introduced to bolster another Google product, Google Trader, which has not been doing very well.
With the pressure to create results and a very enticing inventory of all the potential customers Google wanted to reach already on Mocality, Google bit the bait and started cold calling the businesses offering them their free service. It is ironic that this is the same service Mocality offer these businesses, a free online presence.
As of the publishing of the article on Mocality’s blog, close to a third of all the businesses on Mocality had been called up and to make matters worse, Mocality also tracked the IP addresses that were raiding their database and were able to confirm that the IP addresses were indeed originating from Google servers and were thus not the results of fraudsters. In a response to the allegations, Google kowtowed to Mocality and offered a public apology on Google Plus which reads;
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.
In addition, Google Sub-Sahara Africa head Joe Mucheru also called Mocality CEO Stefan Magdalinski to offer his personal regrets with regards to the unfortunate turn of events. The embarrassing fiasco comes hot on the heels of another instance where another company contracted to increase the page ranking for Google Chrome resorted to black hat tactics that left Google in the uncomfortable position of having to discipline themselves for contravening their own Search Engine guidelines.