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Google Accused Of Fraud By Kenyan Rival

Kenya company used sting operation to probe what it calls unethical and illegal behavior by serach giant. Google says investigation is underway.

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Google has been accused of fraud and pilfering data from Mocality, a mobile business directory serving Kenya in Africa, to jump-start its effort to build a similar local business product, Getting Kenyan Businesses Online, which was launched in September.

"Since October, Google's GKBO appears to have been systematically accessing Mocality's database and attempting to sell their competing product to our business owners," claims Mocality CEO Stefan Magdalinski. "They have been telling untruths about their relationship with us, and about our business practices, in order to do so."

Magdalinski backs up his claim with a detailed forensic analysis of data traffic to his company's website. Mocality gathered this data through what Magdalinski characterizes as a sting operation.

Having determined that its database of mobile business listings showed an unusual pattern of access, the company programmed its website to serve up a phone number for its call center in place of business client phone numbers a small percentage of the time when accessed from the IP address identified as suspicious.

[ Google also faces criticism for its decision to integrate search and social. Read Google+ Search Controversy Grows. ]

As a result, Mocality's call center representatives, who had been briefed on the operation, received calls from Google employees falsely asserting that Google and Mocality were working together, a pretense to sell the supposed business owner website services. Magdalinski has posted an MP3 call recording and transcript as evidence of his claim.

Magdalinski did not immediately respond to an email inquiring whether his company would pursue legal action against Google. Any such action would be complicated by the fact that Mocality relies on Google to make its data findable and that it buys advertising from Google to bring in visitor traffic.

Those commenting on Magdalinski's post have already reached a verdict: That's evil.

Nelson Mattos, Google VP of product and engineering for Europe and emerging markets has issued an apology through Google+. "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," he said. "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."

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User Rank: Apprentice
1/13/2012 | 8:41:41 PM
re: Google Accused Of Fraud By Kenyan Rival
What's a "serach giant"?
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