Every Gmail User in the World Just Won a Settlement Against Google and Got Nothing

Illustration for article titled Every Gmail User in the World Just Won a Settlement Against Google and Got Nothing

Congratulations to all Gmail users for winning a class action settlement. You should be proud of yourselves for making Google pay for putting your privacy at risk with its crazy Google Buzz settings. Your reward? A pat on the back.

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You can read the full terms of the settlement agreement here, but here's an overview which explains why you don't get anything:

  • First, Google agreed to make, and did make, changes to Buzz that clarify its operation and users' options regarding Google Buzz, including, in particular, changes regarding user information and control over Buzz's privacy settings. The Settlement Agreement recognizes that since the inception of this Action Google has made these changes to Google Buzz.
  • Second, Google will do more to educate users about the privacy aspects of Google Buzz. Google will consider the recommendations of Plaintiffs about the content of that public education. Google will select and design the final content of the public education efforts in its discretion, and will provide a report to Plaintiffs' lead lawyer of the education undertaken.
  • Third, Google will pay a total of $8,500,000 into an interest-bearing account. This $8,500,000, plus interest, will constitute the "Common Fund." Because few, if any, Class Members suffered compensable actual damages and because a pro rata distribution of the fund to the Class would not be feasible due to the size of the Class, the Common Fund amounts in excess of fees, costs, expenses, and incentive awards will be distributed to organizations that advance the privacy interests of internet users such as the Class Members. The Settlement Agreement, available on this website, describes all of the details about the proposed Settlement Agreement.

In plain terms? There are too many people in this settlement and too few actually suffered any damages for Google to bother paying them directly. Instead the company will give the funds to nice Internet privacy organizations.

DISCUSSION

Email from Google.

"Google rarely contacts Gmail users via email, but we are making an exception to let you know that we've reached a settlement in a lawsuit regarding Google Buzz ([buzz.google.com),] a service we launched within Gmail in February of this year.

Shortly after its launch, we heard from a number of people who were concerned about privacy. In addition, we were sued by a group of Buzz users and recently reached a settlement in this case.

The settlement acknowledges that we quickly changed the service to address users' concerns. In addition, Google has committed $8.5 million to an independent fund, most of which will support organizations promoting privacy education and policy on the web. We will also do more to educate people about privacy controls specific to Buzz. The more people know about privacy online, the better their online experience will be.

Just to be clear, this is not a settlement in which people who use Gmail can file to receive compensation. Everyone in the U.S. who uses Gmail is included in the settlement, unless you personally decide to opt out before December 6, 2010. The Court will consider final approval of the agreement on January 31, 2011. This email is a summary of the settlement, and more detailed information and instructions approved by the court, including instructions about how to opt out, object, or comment, are available at [www.BuzzClassAction.com]"