Google Buzz settlement will fund internet privacy efforts

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010 By

Google Buzz

The settlement recognizes many of the changes made in Google Buzz privacy settings. Image: Flickr / tarpipe / CC-BY-SA

In an e-mail sent to all Google Buzz users today, Google announced the preliminary approval of its Buzz settlement. The buzz about Google Buzz was that user’s privacy was systematically violated. The $8.5 million settlement does not pay out to Buzz users, but will be used to promote internet privacy.

Google Buzz raised privacy concerns

When Google Buzz launched in February, Google almost immediately received many complaints. The service automatically published a lot of the information in user’s Gmail accounts to the public social networking profile. Information such as websites visited and individuals on contact lists were published without first asking for user’s permission.

The lawsuit against Google Buzz

A large group of Google Buzz and Gmail users banded together to bring a class-action lawsuit against Google Buzz. This lawsuit claims that Google did not respond to user concerns about privacy and security quickly enough. The Google Buzz lawsuit is based on the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, Stored Communications Act and Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The class in the action was expanded to include all users of Gmail and Google Buzz.

Google announces Buzz settlement

In an e-mail sent to all Google Buzz users on Nov. 2, Google outlined the settlement agreed to by a judge, which said the company will dedicate $8.5 million to promote internet privacy. Google has also agreed to “do more to educate people about privacy controls specific to Buzz.” Final approval of the settlement is still pending, and users of Gmail or Google Buzz have until Jan. 1, 2011, to object to the settlement. If users want to not accept the settlement and sue Google on their own, they have to opt-out by Dec. 6, 2010.

Full text of the Google Buzz Class Action Settlement e-mail

Google rarely contacts Gmail users via email, but we are making an exception to let you know that we’ve reached a settlement in a lawsuit regarding Google Buzz (http://buzz.google.com), a service we launched within Gmail in February of this year.

Shortly after its launch, we heard from a number of people who were concerned about privacy. In addition, we were sued by a group of Buzz users and recently reached a settlement in this case.

The settlement acknowledges that we quickly changed the service to address users’ concerns. In addition, Google has committed $8.5 million to an independent fund, most of which will support organizations promoting privacy education and policy on the web. We will also do more to educate people about privacy controls specific to Buzz. The more people know about privacy online, the better their online experience will be.

Just to be clear, this is not a settlement in which people who use Gmail can file to receive compensation. Everyone in the U.S. who uses Gmail is included in the settlement, unless you personally decide to opt out before December 6, 2010. The Court will consider final approval of the agreement on January 31, 2011. This email is a summary of the settlement, and more detailed information and instructions approved by the court, including instructions about how to opt out, object, or comment, are available at http://www.BuzzClassAction.com.

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