Google Accused of Fraudulently Trying to Sink a Kenyan Startup

Lying about a partnership and poaching its customers

By on January 13th, 2012 17:21 GMT

Google can't seem to catch a break these days. The Google+ integration into Google Search has been the hot topic of the week and people are still arguing about it, the vast majority of them criticising the move.

Now comes the account of a Kenyan online company that has made some very serious accusations against Google.

Mocality is a Kenyan website which offers a business directory for local businesses. It has a program of crowdsourcing data and is the biggest such site in the country.

A few months ago, the company's CEO Stefan Magdalinski says, they started getting some strange calls from some of the businesses in their directory, asking more info on website hosting, something that the company does not offer.

What initially seemed a fluke continued to the point that the company got suspicious. It started monitoring traffic to its site and saw a huge amount of traffic coming from one IP in Kenya.

It seems that someone was trawling the site's pages and scraping the information. It happened during business hours and it didn't seem to be an automated process.

At the same time, more Kenyan businesses were getting calls from people claiming to be representing Google Kenya and trying to sell them website hosting and a domain. Google has a program dubbed Getting Kenyan Businesses Online that offers just that.

What's more, the alleged Google representatives said they were working with Mocality and made other false claims about the site and the alleged partnership.

Mocality found all of this by setting up a sting operation, it started serving false information to the IP in question, with a phone number that was actually that of Mocality. Then the calls started coming in; the company recorded some of them.

At the start of 2012, the IP address changed. Now, the traffic came from an IP which Mocality says belongs to Google, in Mountain View at the Google headquarters. Further, the calls were now coming from Google India.

Mocality's blog post on the matter has all the details and they certainly seem serious. Google has acknowledged that it is aware of the blog post and is preparing a response.

"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," Google said.

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