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Mocality accuses Google of abusing its data and lying

 11:29 am on Jan 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

[blog.mocality.co.ke ]

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. They have been telling untruths about their relationship with us, and about our business practices, in order to do so. As of January 11th, nearly 30% of our database has apparently been contacted.

Furthermore, they now seem to have outsourced this operation from Kenya to India.



 1:26 pm on Jan 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'd like to see an official comment come out of Google on this


 4:41 pm on Jan 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Information that is available on the web is just that. Many will take advantage of that. Where this is a bit different from the "status quo" is the phone calls and spurious sales pitch. This seems to go a bit beyond locating lead information.


 8:14 pm on Jan 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Looks like an official comment on the matter here:



 8:25 pm on Jan 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google's first official response written by Nelson Mattos of Google, linked to by Matt Cutts here [plus.google.com]. Here is Google's response:

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.

That response falls short of the CEO of Mocality's request for these three questions to be answered:

Someone, somewhere, has some questions to answer.

•If Google wanted to work with our data, why didn’t they just ask?
In discussions with various Google Kenya/Africa folks in the past, I’d raised the idea of working together more closely in Kenya. Getting Kenyan businesses online is precisely what we do.

•Who authorised this? Until we uncovered the ‘India by way of Mountain View’ angle, I could have believed that this was a local team that somehow forgot the corporate motto, but not now.

•Who knew, and who SHOULD have known, even if they didn’t know


 8:40 pm on Jan 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

And where else is this happening that they would be "mortified" if they found out?

my question, not Mocality's


 9:27 pm on Jan 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Man... the Hits against Google just keep coming don't they? Anyone who's hoping for more Gov't oversight (Disclaimer: I'm one who feels it's time) is probably going to get their wish with all the negative press in 2012.

Maybe the Mayans had it right... we just realize it was Google they were talking about!


 10:54 pm on Jan 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

However Magdalinski alleges that Google representatives lied by telling punters they were working in collaboration with Mocality - a claim that he admits is "deadly serious".



 4:55 am on Jan 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google's gotten too big for their own good and simply cannot maintain their inflated stock prices any longer. They are expected to continue growing but doing so is leading to things like last weeks buying of links and reviews and this...

The anti-trust investigation into Google, accused of boosting their own products in unfair ways, has grown to include their +1 service. I wonder if this incident will seal a guilty verdict, it should.


 5:01 am on Jan 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

And where else is this happening that they would be "mortified" if they found out?

Welcome to Panda in an off-topic sort of way?...


 9:26 am on Jan 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

I just wanted to ad that it is extremely important to have acess to your website statistics if it is a business and/or you count on earnings generated by the site.

The sting Mocality set up that Google fell into would not have been uncovered otherwise. Google underestimated mocality which begs the question - How many other sites/companies is Google taking business from in the same blatant way?

The article linked from the original post is WELL worth reading. There are transcripts including a sound clip of a Google employee flatly lying to try and earn a sale. Explosive stuff, especially while in the middle of an anti-trust probe in at least 5 different countries.

[edited by: Sgt_Kickaxe at 9:54 am (utc) on Jan 14, 2012]


 9:50 am on Jan 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

After discussing this with two people who's opinions I trust I'm wondering if Google may in fact face criminal charges here. You can't tell blatant derogatory lies about another company, to their customers, in order to drum up business for yourself... even in Kenya. The calls were recorded as part of an investigation by the company.

Do you think a criminal investigation may be under way shortly, if it's not already?


 1:42 pm on Jan 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Just when you think they couldn't get any lower there comes a story like that.

Man...explosive stuff... the kind that gets people trown in jails. With full on fraudulent activity documentation and recordings.

Time for them "mortified" bunch to face the music...

"mortified" my ...


 2:24 pm on Jan 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

And to think of what Amit Singhal was talking about when they implemented Panda. Irony much? :)



 9:23 pm on Jan 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Imagine the headlines when this hit main stream media (and i have no doubt it will pretty soon)...

Probably something along these lines:
"Google was caught red-handed, stealing, lying and committing an act of fraud..."

Psst...go ahead now and start that Google+ account. Your personal information and business data is in good hands... including that "analytics" code on your websites or the Toolbar installed on your browser or that "googleupdate.exe" service constantly running in the background on your machine(s)...

[edited by: Web_speed at 10:03 pm (utc) on Jan 14, 2012]


 9:44 pm on Jan 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

"Google was caught red-handed, stealing, lying and committing an act of fraud..."

Perhaps not so extreme in the USA... there are too many Google guys in the US Gov (What? Didn't know?)


 9:58 pm on Jan 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Perhaps not so extreme in the USA...

I have no doubt US/Europe similar stories will start showing up soon as more companies put more efforts into going over their log files and setting similar traps... catching Google in the act and taking them to court over it is a gold mine!...there's going to be a rush now.


 10:04 pm on Jan 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google was caught red-handed, stealing, lying and committing an act of fraud.

Nahhh... Its an election year.

"Gooogle Announces Wifi 9G Breakthrough and Free Wireless Web for all Residents of NY, and 49 other States."

"Google Funds Alternative to SOPA with $500 Million Grant to Fight Online Piracy"

Google may be called to task in other countries, but no in the USA... They are one of those "too big to fail" companies our Govt likes to protect.


 10:05 pm on Jan 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

It all sounds rather iffy though. There's some handwringing by Google but it is not clear if this was Google or a a Google partner/subcontractor. Google seems to select a registrar for this Getting Business Online thing as it always seems to involve the customer buying a domain name.



 10:10 pm on Jan 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

"too big to fail"

so was Enron

Google seems to select a registrar

no doubt, when it comes to the crunch some small fish will get fried


 10:32 pm on Jan 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Don't be evil? It is looking like "don't get caught". This is is a bit of a PR disaster for Google - not even the fanboys are standing up for it.



 11:57 pm on Jan 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

Lately Google seems to be operating more and more like the Italian Mafia...

"Why should we work with you, when we can claim we do and take your data for our benefit for free?"

Besides, when has Google worked with another company on their terms? Its either Google's way or no way at all...no?


 12:16 am on Jan 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

The story has hit the pages of at least The Guardian and The Economist (national daily newspapers) in the UK.

In Google News there's results in at least a dozen different languages. The story is spreading.

I'm now waiting for other companies to claim the same tactics have been used against them. In which other countries has Google initiated projects like GKBO?


 2:39 am on Jan 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

Perhaps not so extreme in the USA... there are too many Google guys in the US Gov (What? Didn't know?)

There's no doubt that Google was at some point tapped on the shoulder to provide data to various government/military agencies, and no doubt they are collecting more than we know, so the question is valid - How much can Google get away with because of the friends they have and the secrets they carry?

That would be for another thread, in time all is revealed. For now lets see if a crime even brings around a criminal charge against them. Mocality is owned by a multi-billion dollar corporation too so the faceoff in legal proceedings would be fair for a change.

Where is the CZAR Obama appointed to combat internet fraud? Telling a potential customer you are working with a company you are NOT is indeed fraud/misrepresentation.


 11:25 am on Jan 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

I've said forever that Google would deliberately put directories out of business once they started doing Local Places, and Panda was the first instance of that actually happening as local sites moved up the SERPs and the very directories Google initially used to gather local information simultaneously slid down the ranks.

I really don't see this Mocality flap as Google doing much different except it was probably a hand job vs automation, but the end result is the same IMO, so no sympathy here until Google lets off the pressure for the rest of us as well which obviously won't happen.


 12:35 pm on Jan 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

@incrediBILL I think that Google is going to do a lot more of this because of the growth of ccTLDs. I was reading that stuff that Amit Singhal wrote about Panda ( [googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com...] )and it is so utterly clueless it is a sick joke. If this is the best that Google can do, it really needs to start fishing in the deep end of the clue pool.

With gTLDS, the zonefiles are readily available and it is easy to detect new websites. However with the braindead blind crawling method that Google and the other search engines use, detection is dependent on their being an inbound link to the new site. The reality is that most new sites don't have inbound links and therefore they are invisible to blind crawlers like Google's.

The big problem for Google is that its credibility is rapidly diminishing. It is no longer a cheeky startup with a bunch of hardworking people. It is a mature corporation. No matter how hard Google's PR flunkies and fanboys (and girls) try, there's the problem that Google has become "them". For directory owners who have had their sites plundered, there's going to be a more aggressive attitude taken. Google may well find itself being blocked by robots.txt from deep content as directory owners decide to limit the damage to their business model. Google Analytics will be ripped out of sites in increasing numbers - after all, the thinking would go, why give these people intelligence? This will possibly lead to the growth of authority type directories in various countries that will compete with Google for traffic. It may also provide the basis for new country-level search engines that concentrate on Google's serious vulnerability (ccTLD coverage). It simply could be Google's KT Event.



 1:05 pm on Jan 16, 2012 (gmt 0)

Do you think a criminal investigation may be under way shortly, if it's not already?

Having been "arrested" in that part of the world a long time ago for <allegedly> smoking "bob marley cigarettes" and after being offered the opportunity to pay a police fine of "how much have you got on you", I'm ROFL at the thought of a "criminal investigation" - in Kenya at any rate.

(Place & people btw are lovely if you ever get a chance to visit!)


 9:07 am on Jan 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

BBC news report on it, but not really treating it as major news:
[bbc.co.uk ]
Google - good or evil?
In the last few days the search behemoth's good intent has been questioned - by a small Kenyan online business directory, and by the world's most powerful media mogul.

The Guardian:
[guardian.co.uk ]
Google 'improperly' accessed Kenyan rival Mocality's database
Google has confessed that a number of people working for it "improperly" accessed the customer database of a rival company in Kenya to boost its own business.


 12:04 pm on Jan 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

To all webmasters: If Google is potentially a competitor to you; then you need check that they havent already stolen your customers from under you!

Google done wrong here in such a big way it really makes you wonder how many previous times have they done exactly this with someone elses data. What project did this team work on before? and what other evil is going on in Google's basement.


 12:09 am on Jan 21, 2012 (gmt 0)

None of this will matter if it doesn't affect the behavior of the average Google user. Very few people outside of industry will hear about this and even fewer will care - and almost none will change their behavior (clicking on ads). Why would Google care about losing a little more cred with people in the online marketing industry? We aren't their customers. As long as Google's actions don't land them in court, and don't affect the behavior of the average user, they could care less about a minor flap like this that will be forgotten in a week. As long as users keep using Google they will dominate the industry and we will have no choice but to play their game.

Also, if it does become a legal issue expect them to sell the local team down the river and deny any knowledge of their actions.

Finally, can we stop being surprised by a huge corporation's aggressive business practices and raising the cry "what about Don't Do Evil"? Are people actually naive enough to think that slogan was ever much more than branding and PR?

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