Google settles Buzz lawsuit with no payout to Gmail users

Google said it won preliminary approval to settle a class-action lawsuit related to alleged privacy violations caused by its Buzz service.

The company will pay $8.5 million into a fund, which will go to organizations focused on Internet privacy education and policy, it said in a statement. The company will also make additional efforts to educate users about the privacy aspects of Buzz.

Google Buzz is a social networking and messaging tool that Google made to be used with its Gmail e-mail service. The class-action against Google alleged that Gmail users were automatically enrolled in Buzz and that their data, including most frequent contacts, was publicly exposed without user consent. Google denied the accuracy of these claims.

Despite the cash settlement, the people represented in the class-action lawsuit, U.S. Gmail users, won’t see a penny of the funds.

“Just to be clear, this is not a settlement in which people who use Gmail can file to receive compensation,” the company said in an e-mail to Gmail users. Everyone in the U.S. who uses Gmail was included in the settlement, unless the user opts out prior to December 6, 2010.

Google said the settlement acknowledges that it quickly changed the Buzz service to address users’ concerns.

“We feel this settlement has many benefits to class members, including providing a significant amount of money to non-profit groups committed to educating users about Internet privacy and ensuring that Buzz users can join this on-line community without compromising their privacy,” Google said.

Judge James Ware of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California preliminarily approved the settlement on Oct. 7, Google said. The company was mandated to reveal the settlement details within 30 days of approval.

Final approval of the proposed settlement will be considered by the court on Jan. 31 of next year. Details about the settlement are available at BuzzClassAction.com.

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