Google PR Nightmare: Search Giant Apologizes for Evildoing

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google mocality pr nightmareMocality, a Kenyan company that maintains an online directory and provides services for 170,000 businesses, recently accused Google of using their database in an unethical manner. The blog post, which was written by the Mocality CEO Stefan Magdalinksi, said that Google contacted their customers without permission, falsely made claims of a business relationship, and made untrue allegations regarding Mocality business practices.

The Mocality team estimates that Google had a team of five employees calling over 23 customers per hour and that Google contacted approximately one-third of their total customer database. On each of the recorded calls, the Google employee calls a customer and attempts to persuade them to sign up for Google’s competing product by making claims of a partnership that did not exist. In addition to the false partnership claims, Google employees also lied about Mocality’s pricing model and claimed that Mocality engaged in questionable business practices.

Although it is perfectly legal to utilize online directories to find sales leads, it is entirely unacceptable to falsely claim a partnership. Also, the phone calls were a clear violation of the Mocality website’s terms of service. Mr. Magdalinski said the following on the Mocality blog:

“I moved to Africa from the UK 30 months ago to be CEO of Mocality. When I moved, Kenya’s reputation as a corrupt place to do business made me nervous. I’ve been very happily surprised- until this point, I’ve not done business with any company here that was not completely honestly conducted. It is important for global businesses to adapt to local cultural practice, but ethics are an invariant. As an admirer of Google’s usually bold ethical stance around the world, to find those principles are not applied in Kenya is simply… saddening.”

Nelson Mattos, the Google VP of Product and Engineering for Europe and emerging markets, responded to Mocality’s accusations with confirmation of wrong doing and “unreservedly apologized.”

“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.”

Although Mocality is appreciative to Google for apologizing and investigating the matter, they are understandably upset and want answers regarding how and why this happened. At this time, Mocality has not taken legal action.

[Sources Include: Mocality, Nelson Mattos Google+, & VentureBeat]

David Angotti

David Angotti

After successfully founding and exiting an educational startup in 2009, I began helping companies with business development, search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO),... Read Full Bio
David Angotti
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  • A similar problem with Google recently occurred at my place of work. We manage organic SEO efforts and search marketing campaigns for quite a few small to medium sized businesses. Recently one of our clients was contacted by Google. Google’s representative apparently attempted to get the client to allow Google to manage their search campaigns. As you might imagine, this has caused us some problems.

    I read similar stories about Google attempting to steal customers around the time of the launch of the Adwords certification program. There was quite a bit of outrage in the SEM community over this. Is Google methodically stepping over this line again? This article and my recent experiences suggest they are at the very least testing boundaries.

  • First of all, I would like to say that monopoly position of Google irritates me. It is too big and powerful. And, I do believe that described unfair practice in Kenya really took place. But, it is also unfair to prolong business “practices” in Kenya toward Google as a whole.

  • We have had a number of clients saying Google have contacted them and tried to sell their own services to our client.

    We didn’t believe Google would do such a thing and presumed it was someone else pretending to be Google.

    This article raises some concerns.

  • Good that Google apologized, but now they need to back it up and make things right.