A federal judge in San Jose has granted preliminary approval to an agreement calling for Google to pay $8.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit stemming from the launch of Buzz, the company said on Tuesday.
Last night, Google sent a letter to Buzz users noting that it has reached a class action lawsuit settlement involving its Google Buzz product, which it launched in February of this year.
When Google initially launched Buzz in February, the company created social networks out of people's Gmail contacts. But in a move that was widely criticized by privacy advocates, Google designed the feature so that it initially revealed information about the names of users' email contacts, if users activated Buzz without changing the defaults. This system meant that a host of information that users thought was confidential - like names of Gmail users' doctors, lawyers or coworkers - could inadvertently become public.
Google Buzz users were also concerned that Google immediately began sharing the locations of Buzz users, without providing an initial opt-out option. As a result, Google was sued by Buzz users, and has committed $8.5 million to an independent fund "most of which will support organizations promoting privacy education and policy on the web," Google said yesterday.
Google admitted that its initial launch of Buzz was problematic and revised the service after it was launched. The resolution also requires the company to consider further suggestions for improving Buzz's privacy.
"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," Google added, noting that the Court will consider the final approval of its agreement on January 31, 2011.