Google to pay $8.5 million in Buzz settlement

Ronny Kerr · November 2, 2010 · Short URL:

Class-action complaint regarding Buzz privacy blunder results in new money for privacy education

Google Buzz

Oh, Google. You were so excited to get everyone on the Internet to use microblogging service Google Buzz that you didn’t even give anyone the chance to opt-in. You just went ahead and did it for us without asking, and now you have to pay for the blunder you brought about yourself.

Google revealed Tuesday that it has agreed to pay $8.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that says the Mountain View search giant violated users’ privacy rights.

On October 7, federal district court Judge James Ware preliminarily approved the settlement.

In the original case, the plaintiffs alleged that “Google automatically enrolled Gmail users in Buzz, and that Buzz publicly exposed data, including users’ most frequent Gmail contacts, without enough user consent,” according to a briefing.

By settling, Google has agreed to contribute $8.5 million to independent organizations dedicated to Internet privacy education and policy. The money will also help cover legal fees.

When Google Buzz launched in February, the tech world didn’t really talk about anything else for a week. What started out as a happy product launch for a new social platform with some serious potential, however, quickly morphed into negative publicity, criticizing the service for everything from copying extant networks to failing to meet basic privacy standards.

Barely a week had passed before various firms filed a class-action complaint against the company regarding Buzz’s privacy missteps, in spite of the fact that Google had already issued an apology and worked tirelessly to reverse the very auto-follow features it had touted on launch day.

And in the months that followed, Buzz fizzled to an almost inaudible hum, only to make noise again to remind us of its privacy failure. It’s pretty doubtful that Google Buzz will ever take off at this point, especially since other microblogging sites like Twitter and Tumblr have only increased in popularity over the past year.

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