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Class-action complaint regarding Buzz privacy blunder results in new money for privacy education
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.
(image source: https://www.shinkim.net/wp-content//2010/02/googleBuzz.jpg)
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What is Twitter?
Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from Twitter.com, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests.
Where did the idea for Twitter come from?
Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.
How is Twitter built?
Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes.
We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.
How do you make money from Twitter?
There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.
In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within Twitter.com, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet.
At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.
Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on Virginamerica.com that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.
What's next for Twitter?
We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users.
We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.