Published by LawTechie - November 3, 2010 - LawTechie

Gmail users received an e-mail from Google yesterday informing them that Google had settled a class-action suit brought by a group of Buzz users and, “[j]ust to be clear, this is not a settlement in which people who use Gmail can file to receive compensation.” Instead, Google agreed to acknowledge its wrongs and to donate an $8.5 million Common Fund to fund organizations focused on Internet privacy policy or privacy education.

The suit was brought in response to the allegedly poor handling of privacy by Google Buzz. Specifically, users complained that their private contact list and other private information were made publicly available by mere virtue of using Buzz. As part of the settlement, Google acknowledged these deficiencies and “made changes to Google Buzz that clarify its operation and users’ options, including, in particular, changes regarding user information and control over Buzz’s privacy settings.”

Google noted that this is not a settlement in the traditional sense. Class members (anyone who has used Buzz prior to 2 Nov 2010) cannot file to receive compensation. However, class members can opt out of this settlement and sue Google separately.

“Google denied the accuracy of Plaintiffs’ allegations and denied that it violated any law or caused any harm by the launch of Google Buzz.” Nevertheless, while not a clear win for privacy advocates, the fact that Google settled rather than make an attempt to dismiss the case (read: validate its denials) illustrates the growing legal and consumer trend to curb privacy infractions by internet social sites.

LawTechie is a blog focusing on trends in tech and digital media. Areas covered include intellectual property, cyberlaw, venture capital, transactions and litigation as they relate to the emerging sectors. The blog is edited by the firm's partner Tim Bukher with contributions from the firm's experts in their respective areas of law.

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