Updated: ‘Mortified’ Google To Act On Those Who Poached Rival’s Clients

Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has “apologised unreservedly” after its Kenyan outfit poached customers from a rival business directory by systematically accessing its database.

The CEO of local business directory startup Mocality, Stefan Magdalinski, says operatives from Getting Kenyan Businesses Online (GKBO), a Google-backed initiative to give small businesses free websites for one year, routinely accessed Mocality’s database to obtain sales leads.

They then called Mocality customers to pitch Google’s alternative service, claimed Magdalinski, who, after setting up a honey trap, was able to record calls from operatives for Google in both Kenya and india who claimed to have had a partnership with Mocality. Magdalinski says Mocality has no such partnership.

“As of January 11th, nearly 30% of our database has apparently been contacted,” he wrote. “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.”

A Google spokesperson tells paidContent: “We’re aware that a company in Kenya has accused us of using some of their publicly available customer data without permission. We are investigating the matter and will have more information as soon as possible.”

Update: Google gave paidContent this statement from its Europe and emerging markets product and engineering VP Nelson Mattos:

“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.”

Kenya’s internet penetration reached 9.7 percent in 2010, up from 8.6 percent a year earlier, according to the United Nation’s ITU unit.