Google is “mortified” that its Getting Kenyan Businesses Online team raided the database of a local startup for crowd-sourced business details, the company has said, and is investigating the use of false claims about its rival. “We’ve already unreservedly apologized to Mocality” Nelson Mattos, Vice-President for Product and Engineering, Europe and Emerging Markets at Google told us, after the startup revealed server logs and an investigation of its own that suggested staff at Google call centers in Kenya and India had been grabbing leads from Mocality’s database and using them to promote their own business.
“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” Nelson Mattos, Vice-President for Product and Engineering, Europe and Emerging Markets
Mocality built its business list through paid crowd-sourcing, handing out cash through a Kenyan mobile money system to users who submitted information on local companies and kept that information up-to-date. Unlike in other countries, no existing list of Kenyan businesses is readily available.
A team of people working on Google’s own business website project in Kenya apparently decided that Mocality’s database was easy pickings, systematically pulling entries and contacting them. According to the startup’s investigations, the Google staff misrepresented them, either saying that Google’s GKBO project was in partnership with Mocality, or that Mocality would charge the equivalent of $200 per site whereas in fact it does not.
Google is still looking into exactly what went wrong, and Mocality is yet to comment on the search giant’s response to the matter.