Millions of Gmail users recently got an email from Google letting them know about a settlement that has been reached in a class action lawsuit over Google Buzz. If you’re a Gmail user, you probably remember back in February when Google released the new feature — and signed everyone up without asking, making “Buzz” connections with users’ Gmail contacts who may or may not have been people with whom they wanted to be connected via Buzz or in any other way.
That action prompted a lawsuit with plaintiffs who were concerned that their private information was being shared without their permission; the class action suit over Google Buzz specifically named a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Google has now announced that a settlement has been reached, according to the following terms:
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.
Google also wanted to make clear the following:
[T]his 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 http://www.BuzzClassAction.com.
In other words, Gmail users aren’t going to see any compensation from this settlement, but they do still have the right to opt out of the class by notifying the United States District Court for the Northern District of California by December 6; opting out would leave a user with the option of bringing his or her own lawsuit.
Do you use Google Buzz? How did you feel when it was first released? How do you feel about Google Buzz now?