1. HeyCori's Avatar
    Do no evil indeed. :D

    Google caught pilfering Kenyan business directory in sting operation

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    All of the page requests from that IP had the same unusual Web browser user agent string, indicating the use of Google Chrome on Linux. The records also showed that the pages were accessed during regular working hours, which suggested that the organization behind the mystery IP address was using a team of humans to trawl through Mocality's database. This left the company wondering what they were doing, and why.

    To find out, it decided to set up a sting operation. 10 percent of all requests from the IP address in question would show the wrong data—instead of getting the businesses' phone numbers, the people harvesting the data would be given Mocality's number.

    The sting was in operation for just three hours. During that time, Mocality received seven calls. Each time the callers claimed to be working for Google Kenya, and that Google Kenya was working with Mocality on a project called Getting Kenyan Business Online.

    Getting Kenyan Business Online is actually a legitimate part of Google's Getting Business Online effort. GKBO gives Kenyan businesses a free website and Web hosting, along with training on how to build an effective online presence. Over the past two years, the Getting Business Online initiative has connected to 400,000 companies across 20 different countries.

    But Mocality is not part of the project, and has not partnered with Google to provide this data.

    More troubling was that some of the calls Mocality received claimed that Mocality wanted to charge businesses Ksh20,000 (about $230) for being included in its directory, and further that GKBO charged the same amount for Web hosting. Neither of these things was true. Mocality's listings are all free, as is GKBO's hosting (with one exception; businesses using a custom domain name must pay a small fee).

    Though the callers identified themselves as working for Google Kenya, this could have been a simple scam. After all, as all my fellow winners of the Microsoft lottery know, scammers are quite willing to exploit the names of respectable businesses.

    But such doubts would shortly be laid to rest. The traffic from the Kenyan ISP stopped, only to be replaced by an identical pattern of traffic from—an IP address assigned directly to Google. Mocality repeated its sting operation and once again the calls started rolling in, with Google staff, this time from Google India, offering Web site services and claiming to be working in partnership with Mocality.
    What amazes me is the amount of Google apologists in the comment section. Apparently this operation was big enough to involve both Google India AND Google Kenya. It might have been an unofficial operation but I don't see how anyone can say that something so big was just the work of "a few bad apples."
    01-14-2012 03:42 PM