A class action lawsuit filed against Google over its social networking system, Buzz, was settled earlier this week. The $8.5m settlement will be legally recognised 31 January, 2011.
The highly anticipated class action settlement hinges on the fact that on its launch, Google Buzz automatically integrated all Gmail users. User’s gmail contacts were made public as a result.
Users were, obviously, given an option to opt out of the program, but numerous felt the overall procedure was deceptive, perplexing, and clearly created to underhandedly get people to sign up who did not want to. A 2nd year Harvard law student was among them.
Ms Hibnick investigated the legal side of the matter after realizing that Buzz had made her Gmail contacts public, because she did not opt out of the program. Through some friends at Harvard, she was put in touch with lawyers, and soon after official class actions claims were filed. An $8.5m fund for non-profits functioning in the internet privacy space is the bulk of the settlement.
Google’s reputation on internet privacy issues is not exactly sqeaky clean. They have been in trouble not too long ago in Canada, because while working on Google Maps, the search engine accidentally harvested massive amounts of personal data from nearby wifi networks.
Knowing the immense influence Google wields, it is almost certainly for the best that individuals are watching what they do closely with regards to privacy issues. Let us not forget, though, that Google is a massive corporation with a whole lot to manage, and numerous competitors.
Some mistakes are bound to occur in a company with more than a billion dollars, and when they do it does not automatically mean Google is being malicious or trying to damage people’s privacy. Google should be held accountable, but not vilified.