Money to go to web privacy education groups

$8.5m pay out for Google Buzz privacy suit

Google has settled legal action over breach of privacy relating to the Internet giant’s launch of the Google Buzz social networking service.

In an email to Gmail users, the company said that the $8.5m settlement related to the way the firm handled user information when the Buzz service was launched. Google added Buzz to all Gmail accounts in a bold move designed to introduce a social networking service many have likened to a cross between twitter and blogs.

However in the rush to launch, Google profiles of all users would show a list of most frequently contacted people in the user’s contact list, a spectacular breach of privacy which the company was quick to remedy and apologise for. Google was subsequently served with a class action lawsuit by the Mason Law Firm, initially representing a Harvard University student.

While the suit claimed to represent 31 million Gmail users and sought damages, the law firm said that it was not looking for individual damages but rather a “commitment from Google that it is not going to do this again.”

Google said that the $8.5m settlement would be used to set up and fund groups to promote privacy on the web.

"The settlement acknowledges that we quickly changed the service to address users’ concerns," Google said in an email to Gmail users. "We will also do more to educate people about privacy controls specific to Buzz,” Google added.

The company has continued to add new features to the Buzz service and while it’s not anywhere near as popular as social networking service such as Twitter, Buzz has nevertheless gained a loyal community of fans and Silicon Valley blogger Louis Gray revealed on Monday that Buzz has been rapidly gaining in popularity since September.

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