And once again Google is in the news regarding privacy issues, this time it’s regarded their social networking service Buzz (which by all accounts is pretty much a flop). The way in which the service used Gmail users address books alarmed a lot of people and the default settings were rather risky and revealed a lot more than most people were comfortable with.
This led to a lot of people boycotting Buzz and in the end rolling out server civil cases against Google. They did attempt to rectify the issue by moving the checkbox to a more prominent position – but honestly the defaults shouldn’t have exposed such personal information to the public Internet in the first place.
Google has agreed to pay $8.5 million to settle a class action lawsuit claiming it violated the privacy of Gmail users when it released Google Buzz, a Gmail bolt-on that turned the email service into a Tweetbookish social networking tool.
The suit in question consolidates several civil cases filed against the company over Google Buzz, which was rolled out to all Gmail users in February – before it had been publicly tested. By default, Buzz automatically exposed users’ most frequent Gmail contacts to the public internet. You did have the option of hiding the list from the public view, but many complained that the checkbox that let you do so was less than prominently displayed.
Within days, Google agreed to move the checkbox to a more prominent position, and it rejiggered the way it handles user contacts. But this didn’t prevent a spate of lawsuits.
I wonder who is actually going to get this $8.5 million though, there are no details on that front. And who are the class representatives? Did any actual individuals band together under this class action suit to get a sweet payout from Google?
I guess more details may come out some time after the case.
In settling the consolidated case, Google will create an $8.5 million fund that will be used to distribute awards to organizations focused on internet privacy or privacy education. It will also be used to pay the lawyers and class representatives – i.e. the people who sued.
Clearly, Google is desperate to challenge the Facebooks of the world with a widely used social networking service of its own, which would expand its its efforts to collect data on users that can then be used to target ads. But like Orkut before it, Buzz hasn’t exactly achieved that goal – just judging from anecdotal evidence. Google has not said, however, how many people actually use the service.
It’s a win for Internet privacy and Google has been getting in a lot of trouble lately, especially with privacy issues regarding their illegal capturing of Wifi data during the Google Wifi Scanning debacle.
Google seem to be trying to go into to many areas and not successfully, they really can’t compete with Twitter and Facebook so why bother trying? They already have a huge user base for existing services, so why not improve those and capture more market share.
Source: The Register