Mocality, a Kenyan-based online business directory has accused Google of malpractice and misrepresentation while trying to woe businesses into the Getting Kenyan Businesses Online program (GKBO), a service that Google launched just over three months ago. With GKBO, Google gives businesses free websites and a domain. In an effort to list such businesses, Google has hired agents who call up businesses with the offer of a free webiste.
Mocality claims that Google has been calling businesses in its database and claiming that they were offering the firm's free websites in partnerhsips with Mocality. Mocality's General Manager Stefan Magdalinski says that the firm stumbled on to Google's shoddy tricks when they received calls from a few businesses who were seeking help with their websites.
"Shortly after that launch, we started receiving some odd calls. One or two business owners were clearly getting confused because they wanted help with their website, and we don't currently offer websites, only a listing. Initially, we didn't think much of it, but the confusing calls continued through November", reads a blog post put up by Stefan on Moclaity's blog.
Mocality then analysed the visitors of the affected business listings on their directory, and were able to draw a pattern that showed a common user to have visited the affected businessed. The user was running an uncommon Linux Operating System and a fairly new version of the Google Chrome.
Further details showed that the Internet address from the above computer visited Mocality's far more times than ordinary users , 2500 visits per day, and that the address rarely visited Mocality's site on Saturdays with no visits on Sundays.
Mocality then tweaked their website to display their own phone numbers, instead of actual phone numbers of businesses, to the Internet address that it suspects was been used by Google employees. Mocality says it was able to record calls of people identifying themselves as Google employees and who explained to the businesses that they were offering free websites in partnership with Mocality.
Mocality says that after the discovery, the above operation appeared to halt, although a later analysis shows that the operation shifted to India, with a new twist. In addition to phone calls from India, Mocality servers were been accessed from India with an Internet address registered to Google.
The claims come just as Google is receiving accusations of trying to promote its Google+ social network by integrating it in Google's search results while ignoring similar content form other websites.
Mocality is owned by South African Naspers group through MIH Holdings. MIH also owns Dealfish and Kalahari.com which was recently shut down.