Every Gmail User Sues Google Over Buzz, Google Settles for $8.5 Million

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Get any interesting e-mails lately? If you’re a Gmail user, you should have gotten one directly from Google yesterday saying, “We’ve reached a settlement in a lawsuit regarding Google Buzz.”

“Everyone in the U.S. who uses Gmail is included in the settlement,” says the e-mail. We won! What do we get? “Just to be clear, this is not a settlement in which people who use Gmail can file to receive compensation.” Awww.

You may remember that when Google Buzz was rolled out back in February, it brought with it the “feature” of auto-following the people you contact most frequently using Gmail. The bigger problem was that anyone who followed you, whether you knew them or not, could also see the people you contact most frequently using Gmail.

According to the settlement:

“The Plaintiffs allege that Google automatically enrolled Gmail users in Buzz, and that Buzz publicly exposed data, including users’ most frequent Gmail contacts, without enough user consent. Google denies the accuracy of Plaintiffs’ allegations and denies that it violated any law or caused any harm by the launch of Google Buzz.

Under the Settlement, Google will establish an $8.5 million Common Fund to fund organizations focused on Internet privacy policy or privacy education, as well as to cover lawyers’ fees and costs and other expenses. Google will also do more to educate users about the privacy aspects of Google Buzz. Since the inception of this litigation, Google has also made changes to Google Buzz that clarify its operation and users’ options, including, in particular, changes regarding user information and control over Buzz’s privacy settings.”

If you’re not cool with the terms of the settlement, you can exclude yourself by December 6th, which is “the only option that allows you to bring your own lawsuit, or be part of any other lawsuit against Google about the legal claims resolved in this Settlement.”

You can also object to the settlement, which involves writing to the court “about why you do not like the Settlement.” If that’s not enough, you can go to a hearing, which will take place in beautiful San Jose on January 31st, 2011. And last but not least, you can do nothing, which I suspect most people will do. In that case, you “give up your rights to sue Google about the legal claims in this case and thereby accept the terms of this Settlement.”

More on Techland:

Google Buzz = Facebook + Twitter + Flickr + GChat + YouTube + Wave

Google Overload and You: An Odd Todd Cartoon

What Would it Take for Google to Lure You Away from Facebook?