Google settles privacy suit over Buzz network

By Reuters
Posted Sep. 3, 2010 at 4:26 p.m.

Google Inc. has settled a lawsuit accusing it of privacy violations in connection with its Buzz social networking service, according to a court document filed Friday.

The settlement filing comes the same day Google said it would simplify and update its privacy policies, Associate General Counsel Mike Yang said on the company’s Web site.
Yang was not available for comment.

In addition, Google disclosed on its site that Texas Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott was conducting an antitrust review of the company.

Google spokesman Brian Richardson said the company was satisfied with the agreement to end the Buzz litigation.

“We have always been committed to offering users transparency and choice in Buzz and all our products, and will continue to work together with users to provide the best user experience possible,” he said.

Launched in February, Buzz initially used an individual’s e-mail contacts from Google Gmail to build a social network of Buzz contacts that anyone could see, which led to privacy concerns. Google then changed the settings so that contacts were kept private by default.

To settle the lawsuit brought by a Gmail user, Google will set aside $8.5 million for attorneys fees and donations to organizations focused on Internet privacy, according to the court filing.

In addition, “the settlement requires that Google undertake wider public education about the privacy aspects of Buzz,” the filing showed.

Gary Mason, an attorney for the plaintiffs, was not available for comment.

Yang said on Google’s site that the company was deleting separate privacy statements for 12 Google products and services, which would now be covered by Google’s overall policy. He said the updates would take effect  Oct. 3.

“To be clear, we aren’t changing any of our privacy practices,” Yang said. “We want to make our policies more transparent and understandable.”

The case in San Francisco federal court is In Re Google Buzz User Privacy Litigation, 10-cv-00672.

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