Google to Pay $8.5 Million in Buzz Privacy Class Action Settlement

Google will pay $8.5 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought against the company after its launch of Google Buzz. Google’s attempt at challenging Facebook and Twitter in the social networking realm was greeted with hostility by privacy advocates after it shared personal data without Gmail users’ consent.

Eva Hibnick filed the class action lawsuit a week after Buzz launched in February. At launch, Buzz automatically shared users’ Picasa Web Albums and Google Reader items with their contacts. Also, Buzz auto-followed Gmail contacts, which were then visible to everyone and allowed people to learn about your e-mail habits and behavior.

After the disastrous launch, the service was met with a complete lack of buzz.

Google sent this mandatory announcement to all U.S. Gmail users yesterday:

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, 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

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