For those of you that have a Gmail account, you may have been surprised to find an email in your inbox from Google yesterday regarding a class action lawsuit with Google Buzz. Google recently settled a privacy lawsuit that was filed by a group of Buzz users. The famous browsing based company emailed all of it’s U.S. Gmail users to inform them of the verdict, letting everyone know that they were included in the suit, but will not receive any money.
Although a settlement has been reached with Google Inc, there still remains a number of privacy concerns regarding the company’s social networking program, Google Buzz. The plaintiffs allege that Google automatically enlisted all Gmail users in Buzz, a feature not all users knew was included when signing up with Gmail. Another complaint about the Buzz feature was that it publicly exposed data, including Gmail user’s favorite Gmail contacts without the user’s consent. Despite these accusations, Google denies the Plaintiffs’ allegations and deny that the company has violated any law, or caused harm with their addition of Google Buzz to Gmail.
It has been decided that the $8.5 million settlement money will be allocated to an independent fund, which Google says will support organizations working on privacy education and policy throughout the Internet. It is Google’s hopes to help educate Gmail users about their rights and privileges as a user, as well as protecting their privacy. The email sent nation wide began with the line, “Google rarely contacts Gmail users via email, but we are making an exception…” The initial response from readers would be some excitement and curiosity, yet further down in the email we are made aware of Google’s true intent for emailing. The email proceeds, “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.” Turns out you weren’t so special after all.
The class action lawsuit includes all Gmail users in the U.S. who had the opportunity to use Google Buzz before November 2, 2010. As a Gmail user, individuals are presented with a few options. You can exclude yourself from the lawsuit, which means that you are allowed to bring your own lawsuit forward, or you can be apart of any other lawsuit against Google. You are required to mail in your request for exclusion no later than December 6, 2010. The other option would be to object the lawsuit, which would entail a written letter to the court about why you do not approve of the settlement. This letter must be received by January 10, 2011. Another choice would be to attend a hearing. In this case, you must send a Notice of Intent to Appear to the court prior to January 10, 2011. And lastly, you have the option to do nothing. This will give up your rights to sue Google regarding the legal claims in this specific case and will thereby cause you to accept the terms of this settlement.
Although this court case does not address the impractically of Google Buzz, it does address several privacy issues users’ have. If you are concerned with how this decision will personally affect you, users’ are welcome to contact Google Inc. but don’t expect a response anytime soon.
Sophia Barilla writes for Purchase Order Financing where your dreams of funding a major business opportunity can become a reality.