Wednesday, 03 November 2010 13:36

Google settles Buzz class action

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In an email to all US-based registered users of Google Buzz, Google has announced details of the settlement reached with a group of Buzz users concerned about privacy flaws in the product.

Earlier this year, Google launched Buzz and almost immediately reports emerged of a major privacy flaw in the product (for instance, see the first comment in the link above) where the people a user followed and those that followed the user was publicly visible.

A number of early Buzz adopters sued Google over this major problem (which was repaired very quickly after Google was made aware) on the basis that the system should never have been released in such a privacy-poor state.

On-line services have has a very chequered career when it comes to managing subscribers' privacy.  For instance, Facebook endured the recent "Quit Facebook Day" and also has long-pasting bad press over it's constantly-changing privacy landscape.

"We are satisfied with the agreement and are glad to move forward," said a Google spokesperson via the official class-action website https://www.BuzzClassAction.com . "We have always been committed to offering users transparency and choice in Buzz and all our products, and will continue to work together with users to provide the best experience possible."

Gary E. Mason, counsel for the Plaintiffs in the litigation, said, "We feel this Settlement provides many benefits to Class Members, including providing a significant amount of money to non-profit groups committed to educating users about Internet privacy and ensuring that Buzz users can join this on-line community without compromising their privacy."

Today, Google has sent an email to all registered US-based Buzz users detailing the settlement reached.  The contents are as follows:


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 (https://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 https://www.BuzzClassAction.com.

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This mandatory announcement was sent to all Gmail users in the United States as part of a legal settlement and was authorized by the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.


iTWire recommends that all parties to the action visit the official class action website and take the action most appropriate to their situation.

 


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David Heath

David Heath has had a long and varied career in the IT industry having worked as a Pre-sales Network Engineer (remember Novell NetWare?), General Manager of IT&T for the TV Shopping Network, as a Technical manager in the Biometrics industry, and as a Technical Trainer and Instructional Designer in the industrial control sector. In all aspects, security has been a driving focus. Throughout his career, David has sought to inform and educate people and has done that through his writings and in more formal educational environments.

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