The CEO of Mocality, a Kenyan business directory startup, took to the Internet today to vent about Google poaching clients after discovering the search engine accessed his company’s database without permission to obtain sensitive sales lead information.

In the “Google, what were you thinking?” blogpost, Stefan Magdalinski claimed Getting Kenyan Business Online, a Google-backed initiative that offers small businesses free websites for one year, systematically accessed Mocality’s database to leach information. The CEO said the operatives harvested sales lead information to contact Mocality customers and pitch Google’s alternative service.

Magdalinski, after noticing the breach of security, set up a sting operation. He swapped a few clients phone numbers listed in the database with Mocality’s own call center phone numbers, and then waited patiently. Magdalinski said he was able to record calls from Google operatives in both Kenya and India. GKBO said it had a partnership with Mocality during its sales pitches, but as Magdalinski pointed out, no such partnership exists…

“As of January 11th, nearly 30% of our database has apparently been contacted,” wrote the Mocality CEO in a blogpost. “We are in the business of creating local Kenyan content that Google can sell their adwords against. Google isn’t just scalping us, they’re also scalping every Kenyan who has participated in our program.”

Europe and Emerging Markets Product and Engineering Vice President Nelson Mattos released a statement through Google + regarding the poaching scandal:

“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.”

The United Nation’s Internet Usage and Telecommunications Report listed Kenya’s Internet penetration at 9.7-percent in 2010, which is up from 8.6-percent in 2009.

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4 Responses to “Google ‘mortified’ over client poaching scandal, caught harvesting Mocality database information”

  1. m_knopp says:

    Yeah, I think that your quote missed the all important unsaid part of Mr Mattos' statement. Here let me insert those missing parts in all caps to get a real feel for what Google is up to.

    “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 AND GOT CAUGHT. We’ve already unreservedly apologised to Mocality AND WILL WAIT AT LEAST A MONTH BEFORE DOING IT AGAIN. We’re still investigating exactly how this happened AS WE TRY TO EMPLOY HACKERS THAT ARE BETTER THAN TO GET CAUGHT DOING WHAT WE TELL THEM TO, and as soon as we have all the facts, we’ll be taking the appropriate action with the people involved. REST ASSURED THE HACKERS SLOPPY ENOUGH TO GET CAUGHT DOING OUR DIRTY WORK WILL BE FIRED.”

  2. GelasMac says:

    yeah, i don't read this article till it's end but i love Apple (hmm, why the mac font colour become green?) anyway..just wanna tell ya, visit my blog okay at http://gelasmac.blogspot.com. it will bring you much knowledge about world inside it.. thanks ya..

  3. CharBroiled20s says:

    Utterly detestable. where are the boundaries, google? what controls are you putting in place to stop blatant theft in the future? probably none… What happened to "don't be evil? More and more it seems the real unofficial motto is do what you want but don't get caught.

  4. Laz says:

    Do no evil?

    Ouch.