Last update 1/17/2012 8:00:00 AM (GMT+7)

Google encounters tough week with social search controversy, customer-poaching scandal

Google seems to get no blessings for a good start for its New Year resolutions as the Internet search giant got an earful of complaints about its new social search service and felt mortified by a customer-poaching scandal in its Kenyan division.

On Tuesday, Google announced "search plus your world" to deliver personalized search results by embedding its social service Google+ to its search engine.

Although Google called it as "a beautiful journey begins," competitors and industry watchers said it was "a bad day for the Internet." They accused the company of using its dominant search engine to promote its own social networking site by giving Google+ pages and profiles an artificially prominent position in search results.

The search giant first had a public bickering with Twitter which issued a statement on Tuesday saying that "As we've seen time and time again, news breaks first on Twitter. We're concerned that as a result of Google's changes, finding this information will be much harder for everyone."

Google on Wednesday made a statement on its official Google+ page, saying that "We're a bit surprised by Twitter's comments because they chose not to renew their agreement with us last summer." The agreement, in which Twitter gave Google access to public tweets, expired last July and was not renewed.

Twitter fired back by demonstrating the inefficiency of the new Google search feature. Twitter general counsel Alex Macgillivray tweeted a page of Google search results for the search term "@WWE" which did not include World Wrestling Entertainment's Twitter page, but Google+ page.

Macgillivray noted that with 792,642 followers on Twitter compared with 24,900 followers on Google+, WWE's Twitter page is a more relevant social source than Google page and should be presented in Google's search results.

Facebook, Google+'s major rival, has been remaining silent this week publicly while its employees criticized Google's moves in public status updates. Several prominent Facebook engineers and directors shared a tech blog about switching default search engine to Microsoft's Bing after "Google broke itself."

Facebook has been working with Microsoft to allow Bing to reveal more personalized content.

Industry watchers are also crying foul at the privacy and antitrust concerns raised by the new search feature. Search Engine Land, a tech blog closely following Google's news, posted several examples of how Google favors its own social networking service.

Industry watchdog Electronic Privacy Information Center told the Los Angeles Times that the group is considering filing a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The organization once made the complaint that resulted in Google's settlement with the FTC last year that requires the Mountain View, California-based company to submit to external audits of their privacy practices every other year.

On Friday, a Kenyan business directory startup Mocality said that Getting Kenyan Businesses Online, a Google-backed initiative to give small businesses free websites for one year, routinely accessed Mocality's database to obtain sales leads.

The Search giant's Kenyan division called Mocality customers to pitch Google's alternative service, claiming they have had a partnership with Mocality. Mocality CEO Stefan Magdalinski said there is no such partnership.

In a statement sent to the U.S. media, Google said it is " mortified" to learn that a team representing Google improperly used Mocality's data and misrepresented their relationship with the Kenyan company, noting that it "unreservedly apologized to Mocality" and is still investigating the issue.

On Monday, BBC revealed that Google admitted profiting from advertisements of illegal websites selling drugs, fake passports and unauthorized tickets for the 2012 Olympics.

The ads had been removed by Google after they were brought to the company's attention, but the search giant told BBC that the company "keeps any money it might make from companies advertising illegal services before such ads are removed."

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Microsoft announced it has signed a patent licensing agreement with LG Electronics on the manufacturer 's devices running Google Android platform, leaving Motorola Mobility the only major Android-powered device maker that refuses to strike a deal with Microsoft.

After the announcement, Microsoft's directors have been taking to Twitter to taunt Google as the two companies had a history of public back-and-forth. But so far, it appeared that Google didn't have time to needle back.