Zomato has published strong proof against Burrp accusing them of copying restaurant listing data from their site. From what it looks like, there is no excuse that Burrp team can really present for this. And as usual saying, “User submitted data” is as lame as it can get.
In nutshell, Zomato publishes their own number for some restaurants that they have up tie-up with. Burrp, as accussed by Zomato, while copying data, also copied this phone number and hence was easily caught.
We have been experimenting with a few business models and have for a few restaurants put our own phone numbers on which we take table reservations on behalf of the restaurant. These instances are very few in number (~1% of our database). So these numbers are our numbers, the restaurant staff doesn’t know about this and these numbers have no business showing up on some other website (even our API does not serve these numbers). Also, we have our own proprietary GPS systems which help us collect very very accurate (within 2 meters) GPS coordinates for restaurants listed on Zomato. So when these coordinates, until the 5th decimal point show up on some other website, we have a problem.
Now, we found a few such instances on Burrp.com; these instances are incomplete listings (they didn’t take our data which they thought would be proprietary), but these listings have our phone numbers and our GPS coordinates in them. Here is a screenshot:
Btw, we found these listings by doing a simple “site:burrp.com 49422222” search on Google. 49422222 is a Zomato owned phone number in Delhi.
We have found multiple other such instances on Burrp.
Now, we have pointed out such issues to Burrp twice earlier and the response we got was:
“This was a user upload, we have nothing to do with this, we will take down the listing. Thanks for keeping an eye on us. And please don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. We maintain 150,000 listings, so we don’t bother about copying your data at all. We don’t do such things.”
Now, this is not a user upload. The ‘user’ who added this listing is a Mangal84, who has added 11052 listings to Burrp (yet) with 0 reviews (!). Clearly a Burrp employee, since May 5, 2009. More about it here: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/mangal-shewale/23/519/867 or http://www.freezepage.com/1316835281MDMFHBHHQU
With user uploads, I can understand, shit happens. But even then, you just cannot pass off shit in the name of user uploads. It’s a well known fact that Burrp verifies and moderates every listing upload that is submitted on the website. How could such a thing get through the moderation and verification system? So, if it is indeed some users uploading Zomato data to Burrp’s servers, we strongly recommend that Burrp should either strengthen its moderation systems or shut down the sections of its business which they clearly cannot manage.
What I have not been able to understand is the map coordinates available for a few restaurants on their system. I don’t really think that a user would go to the extent of going through our source code, extracting the map coordinates and submitting them to Burrp. As far as I know Burrp doesn’t even have a facility to submit raw map coordinates. And I think there is only a one in a million chance that the user accidentally dropped a pin on a google map which is exactly the same as the super accurate coordinates collected with our GPS systems. I would like to give Burrp the benefit of doubt, but it is highly unlikely that a user is doing this. As shown above, its quite likely that a Burrp employee is behind all this scraping from Zomato.
This is not the first time that Network18 has been accused of data stealing, earlier JustDial had sued Askme for data theft and the latter was asked to shutdown as well. It seems Network18’s web presence is nothing but a content farm. Their in.com property is also known to be reproducing SEO rich content from all over web on connect.in.com. They are so sure they are violating copyrights that they have published a notice for Copyright Infringement Issues on all pages.
While there are strong and might we say ‘insensible’ laws being made around web publishing that even go on to restrict fundamental rights of speech, there is no action on mass infringement like these. You need to individually go fight cases. I wonder why Google’s Panda update hasn’t taken up on this. Though one remarkable thing here is that in.com was doing all this through help of Bing until now but now Bing’s logo has been removed.
On web where having data is major part of your product it seems people have taken it for granted. Earlier even Cleartrip has been accused of data theft by Travelocity. The case led to momentary arrest of Cleartrip’s CEO.
What do you think of such blatant violation? Should these cases lead to blanket ban of the website by all ISPs?
UPDATE: Check here for Burrp’s reply.
[Naman is a startup enthusiast and has worked with couple of Indian startups as Product Manager. He is the founder of FindYogi]