On January 13, a Kenya based local search/online directory Mocality, which provides services for 170,000 businesses, accused Google of using its database in an unethical manner.
In a blog post, Mocality CEO Stefan Magdalinksi, said that Google crawled their site for local business sales leads and then contacted their customers without permission, falsely made claims of a business relationship, and made untrue allegations regarding Mocality business practices.
Magdalinski explains that his company conducted a "sting" against Google and offers evidence of his claims against the company. Google says it's investigating.
The Mocality team writes that Google had a team of five employees calling over 23 customers per hour and that Google contacted approximately one-third of their total customer database. On each of the recorded calls, the Google employee calls a customer and attempts to persuade them to sign up for Google's competing product by making claims of a partnership that did not exist. In addition to the false partnership claims, Google employees also lied about Mocality's pricing model and claimed that Mocality engaged in questionable business practices.
"On this call (first 2 minutes) you can clearly hear Douglas identify himself as Google Kenya employee, state, and then reaffirm, that Getting Kenyan Businesses Online (GKBO) is working in collaboration with Mocality, and that we are helping them with GKBO, before trying to offer the business owner a website (and upsell them a domain name). Over the 11 minutes of the whole call he repeatedly states that Mocality is with, or under (!) Google.
Between 10am and 1pm on December 21st, we received 6 others just like it (from 5 different Google Kenya employees) before switching back to normal service. We estimate that this team were calling 20-25 Mocality business per hour, since 7 calls over 3 hours, only 10% of calls redirected: 7*10/3= 23.3. calls/hour)," revealed Magdalinski.
Google apparently acknowledged the Mocality allegations to be accurate and issued the following statemeny through Nelson Mattos, Google VP of Product and Engineering for 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."