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When Google Buzz was announced it raised the hackles of Gmail users because everyone was instantly opted in and everything you did was shared with everybody you ever knew. Early criticsms of Google Buzz were plentiful – like Melanie Nelson’s Google Buzz: Will the Privacy #FAIL Overshadow the Tool’s Potential? and angelynnodom’s Google Buzz. Google took measures to change the way Google Buzz worked, but those early failures were the precursors to a lawsuit against Google.
Erin Bock at Jurist explains the lawsuit in Google announces settlement in ‘Buzz’ privacy class action lawsuit
. . . a class action lawsuit regarding privacy breaches relating to its Google Buzz social networking program. The settlement is in response to a complaint filed in July alleging that the Buzz application within Gmail exposed private user data, including contact lists, to other Gmail users.
The class action lawsuit reached “preliminary approval to settle” this week, with Google agreeing to pay $8.5 million. That doesn’t mean Gmail users are going to get any money, however. As Nitasha Tiku explains in NY Magazine’s Congratulations! You Won That Google Lawsuit You Didn’t Know You Filed,
Before you attempt complicated math like $8.5 million divided by everybody, all the money is going to an independent fund that will support privacy education and policy groups. It seems unlikely the funds will make the trip across the pond considering the U.K.’s ruling today that Google did indeed break the law when its Street View cars accidentally snarfed up more data than originally revealed from unencrypted Wi-Fi networks as its cars rode by. Seems like that new “build now, correct later” privacy model we were talking about is really catching on.
The Google Street View privacy issue in the U.K. mentioned in that quote explained at eWeek.
Getting back to the Buzz issue, Google agree to pay the big bucks, but the dust has not completely settled on the charges. According to Google announces settlement in ‘Buzz’ privacy class action lawsuit,
The US District Court for the Northern District of California will hold a fairness hearing regarding the settlement on January 31, and users also have the option to contact the court with objections or ask to speak at the hearing. Class members include any Gmail users who were given the opportunity to use Buzz before November 2. Google stressed that the settlement did not mean that the company was admitting liability for the privacy breach and that the company has since resolved all privacy issues with the Buzz application.
Buzz Class Action has all the information about the litigation, including court documents, hearing dates, the address of the class action administrator and more.
Google announced the settlement to its Gmail users in a mandatory email. You can see the text of that email at Switched in Google Announces Buzz Privacy Lawsuit Settlement via E-mail.
Cross-posted at BlogHer.