This is an update from yesterday’s big huge story of Google fraud against Mocality here in Kenya. Please read the article to learn what happened.
At the end of the day, Google issued a statement which read:
“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.” – Nelson Mattos
However you think about it, this is wrong. Terribly wrong. It is unacceptable for Google or anyone else to do this. Mocality should definitely press for legal remedies. However, as much as this is wrong, it is also stupid.
Google is a huge organisation. Surely what they stand to gain from doing this in Kenya is pocket change compared to their other earnings, right? Why risk so much PR damage for such little relative gain? This makes me feel that this was not ‘sanctioned’ at the highest levels of Google. It makes me feel that this was done at the ‘Kenyan’ level i.e. at Google Kenya. Of course it does not make it okay in any way, but it makes more sense than trying to think of why Larry Page (Google CEO) would agree to such a stupid plan in the grand scheme of things.
The ‘web directory’ industry in Kenya is very competitive right now (think of Nsoko, Craigslist, Mocality, and the tens and tens of other competitors) so of course what Mocality has managed to do is impressive and rightly so. Clearly, when Google set up KBO someone at Google was put in charge of this project and given the ‘orders’ to grow it aggressively.
Rumors flying about seem to suggest that Google hired an Indian company, iridium Interactive (they have since denied having any part in this), to help in the job of growing the KBO initiative. My guess is that iridium Interactive and possibly one or two people at Google Kenya:
- Saw Mocality as a big competitor OR
- Saw Mocality as an easy way to get people to use KBO (i.e. steal from the Mocality database) OR
- All the above
So what did they do? They set up what they thought was a clever plan to use Mocality’s large database to their advantage: they started contacting the businesses listed by Mocality and offering them free websites via KBO. Makes sense, in a way, because most of the businesses listed at Mocality have no website. Here’s what one of the businesses contacted in this fradulent way had to say:
“OMG!!!!! We received a call on the office line (the one listed on Mocality) from India stating that they were offering website services. I think the guy on phone was Deepak or something (it sounded almost like a scam) the guy said he was from Google Kenya blah blah, we refused the offer as we already have a site. Then few days ago I was just searching our page when I stumbled upon our site on .kbo.co.ke site…I mailed them n told them to take it down! aaaaaaaarg!!!!!!” – Lucia
So, well, the ‘Google’ guys contacted this business and offered to move them to KBO. This initial contact is important because at this point you can offer to sell a domain name to the business (because just building a website with KBO is free). So after the business declined this offer, the ‘Google’ guys went ahead and built them a site on KBO anyway. From this, it seems that the goals of the Google fraud were:
- To get as many businesses on KBO as possible. This was the main goal.
- To sell domain names to businesses which get on KBO (if possible). I believe this is why ‘Google’ did not just go ahead and build the businesses KBO sites without first contacting them and trying to sell the additional optional domain name.
So who is to blame? Google is. But I think that this ‘fraud’ was not sanctioned by the whole of Google. To me, it seems that iridium Interactive (they have since denied having any part in this) and some Google Kenya employees thought this scheme up as a clever (they thought) way to build up their new service quickly. It is sad that the whole of Google now has to deal with the mess of a few greedy individuals.
What do you think of all this?
Comment from iridium Interactive:
Dear Sir/ Madam
In the context of the latest conversations regarding the Scraping & Calling operations done on Mocality’s databse by Google, Iridium Interactive officially & categorically denies any involvement in these operations. Any allegations/ rumors indicating our involvement are baseless, false and grossly misinterpreted.