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Google To Pay $8.5 Million In Buzz Privacy Settlement

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the dollars-and-sense dept.

Google 58

eldavojohn writes "Google's Buzz service will cost the company $8.5 million in settling a class action lawsuit related to the privacy debacle from the days after its release. Ars reports: 'In the proposed settlement submitted to the court this week, Google agreed to make efforts to better educate Buzz users on issues of privacy and the particular privacy features that Buzz offers. Additionally, Google also agreed to pay out $8.5 million to a fund which will be disbursed as cy pres awards for organizations that focus on Internet privacy policy or education.' In other words, the victims (Buzz users) won't see any of that money, but it will be used to promote healthy Internet privacy policies." Several readers have also noted that Google has simplified its privacy policy, condensing a number of product-specific policies into one and adding a privacy tools page in an effort to make everything more easily understood.

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This is another great victory... (4, Insightful)

Nicopa (87617) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477254)

This is another great victory for lawyers. =b

Re:This is another great victory... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33477614)

=b

Cool, how could you make that up-side down p?

Re:This is another great victory... (1)

williamhb (758070) | more than 3 years ago | (#33479390)

This is another great victory for lawyers. =b

It's a victory for everyone except users. Google's PR people can now tell investors and customers "Look how great we are on privacy: in FY2010, we gave $8.5 million to support privacy education, and unlike other companies we've never had to pay a dime of compensation to our users for privacy breaches" making the lost lawsuit sound like benevolence. The law-firm that brought the class action can now say "we've successfully pursued actions against large companies including Google, ..." So the only people who lose out and get nothing are the victims who've had their private information leaked.

THAT IS SUCH FUCKING BULLSHIT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33479750)

Google is good, donchya' know?

Can victims opt out of this settlement? (2, Interesting)

d_jedi (773213) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477258)

It's ridiculous to think we won't even get a dime.

Re:Can victims opt out of this settlement? (1)

MasterEvilAce (792905) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477284)

Absolutely, considering it's our privacy. We're the ones with something to lose.

Re:Can victims opt out of this settlement? (3, Insightful)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477328)

Instead, the money will go to funding lobbyists pushing for privacy legislation. Remember the mantra: Privacy is sacred!

To use a website, you'll need to provide three forms of ID to prove you're not too young, a predator, or any other kind of objectionable person, but the company running the website won't be able to record that fact. You'll need to repeat the process every time you use the site. You can also forget storing preferences, or being able to post your own comments. It's all for privacy! Also note that all the ads on your favorite sites, since they won't be able to be targeted, will present a random selection of products for your consideration. While shopping for a new television, you'll get ads for healthy food for your pet gerbil! While browsing for something vague, like a new cooperative board game for your family, you'll get ads for condoms. I guess that's related...

Remember: Relevance is overrated! Only absolute privacy can protect us from those evil advertisers!

</sarcasm>

Re:Can victims opt out of this settlement? (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477512)

And don't forget, that the laws will be written in such a vague way that no one will completely understand them, and they will need to spend many years in court before they completely understood. Vague laws are a lawyer's gift.

Re:Can victims opt out of this settlement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33484846)

This is, I believe, the smartest post I have ever read pertaining to the fear-mongering that surrounds the privacy debate (with all due respect to my fellow slashdotters). In lieu of mod points, I give you a tip of my hat.

Re:Can victims opt out of this settlement? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33477338)

Why? There was absolutely no harm to anyone. The privacy "implications" were completely overblown and mainly by people who just didn't understand how the service worked, the service was opt-in to begin with, and nobody actually had any damage done to them.

This is pretty much completely bullshit, and I imagine the only reasons they settled at all were 1) to save face and 2) to save money, since a legal battle would have cost them more.

Re:Can victims opt out of this settlement? (4, Interesting)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477470)

I wouldn't call it "opt-in" when Buzz automatically followed frequent contacts.

This, in fact, is why I blocked everyone (even good friends) and promptly deleted my public profile.

Re:Can victims opt out of this settlement? (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477492)

I wouldn't call it "opt-in" when Buzz automatically followed frequent contacts.

This, in fact, is why I blocked everyone (even good friends) and promptly deleted my public profile.

Why, what were you posting on Buzz that you wouldn't want "even good friends" to see? If you wanted to share something with only a few people, why not simply share it directly with those people? Why use Buzz?

Re:Can victims opt out of this settlement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33480572)

It's not about what you post. The problem is that it basically showed your "friends" list to everyone else on your friends list. And for Google, your "friends" are pretty much anyone you've emailed a few times. You didn't actually have to post anything; it would show up if someone clicked on your profile.

Re:Can victims opt out of this settlement? (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477542)

You seem to have misunderstood what social networking means and the point behind portals such as facebook and buzz.

Re:Can victims opt out of this settlement? (3, Informative)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477672)

You seem to have forgotten how google rolled out buzz.

Re:Can victims opt out of this settlement? (1)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477752)

I wouldn't call it "opt-in" when Buzz automatically followed frequent contacts.

This, in fact, is why I blocked everyone (even good friends) and promptly deleted my public profile.

WOW! I simply decided to use the "TURN OFF BUZZ!" option.

I guess the AC was VERY correct with this: "...mainly by people who just didn't understand how the service worked"

Re:Can victims opt out of this settlement? (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477844)

The auto-follow still exposed information without my consent.

It doesn't matter how easily it was to undo, data was still exposed where it shouldn't have been.

Re:Can victims opt out of this settlement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33477862)

Posting it three times will not make it true.

What information do you feel was exposed? Your public profile? That is how social networking works.

Re:Can victims opt out of this settlement? (2, Informative)

access.name (1198513) | more than 3 years ago | (#33478508)

What information do you feel was exposed? Your public profile? That is how social networking works.

It exposed to person-I-write-emails-to-number-1 the existence/name of person-I-write-emails-to-number-2 and viceversa.

Re:Can victims opt out of this settlement? (1)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477882)

The auto-follow still exposed information without my consent.

It doesn't matter how easily it was to undo, data was still exposed where it shouldn't have been.

That does not match my experiences, nor their text on the matter. I didnt say disable parts of Buzz. I said Turn off (as in entirely) Buzz.

Re:Can victims opt out of this settlement? (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477920)

Let me put it this way.

You sail a ship, and she springs a leak in the hull.

It doesn't matter how fast you haul her back ashore, the bilge is still going to be wet.

Re:Can victims opt out of this settlement? (1)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477950)

Odd... (1) I got the offer to opt in (not the need to opt out), (2) I actually read the settings page, (3) I got the offer/option to turn it off completely when I opted in,

Maybe I got invited to it while it was in closed beta? That's the only thing I can think of that would make my experience so vastly different than yours.

Re:Can victims opt out of this settlement? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33478834)

I wouldn't call it "opt-in" when Buzz automatically followed frequent contacts.

That's odd. It made me follow someone I've never emailed, the only reason I had their address in the first place was because I sent them a GMail invite back when it was still invite only.

Re:Can victims opt out of this settlement? (1)

Maskull (636191) | more than 3 years ago | (#33481340)

I never got a chance to test this, but according to Google, until you post your first "buzz", none of that information is live. Supposedly it fills in your followers and what not, but nobody can see any additional information about you until you actually go in and type "hey i'm using buzz LOL" and hit post. Again, that was how I understood the setup; I don't know if it's true.

Re:Can victims opt out of this settlement? (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | more than 3 years ago | (#33491990)

when you logged into gmail, there was a button that said "please let me use buzz" and one that said "no thanks, i dont want buzz" along with a brief description. That is, as GP stated, it was COMPLETELY optional, as is googles entire gmail service to begin with.

Noting that it was only 8.5 mil, really sounds like the opposition had very little ground to stand on and this was a concession to make the stupid thing go away.

Re:Can victims opt out of this settlement? (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477486)

I believe the summary to be incorrect since as the groups that launched the class actions lawsuit are in fact privacy groups they'll be receiving some fat pay checks.

Re:Can victims opt out of this settlement? (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477970)

You can generally opt out of class-action settlements, yes. But since the settlement was for a lump sum, not a per-class-member calculation, people opting out won't really make any difference, though I guess it could have a PR impact if a huge number of people did.

The usual reason people opt out of class action settlements is actually the opposite: they want to retain their right to sue separately, whereas if you accept the settlement, any future claims for the same issue are barred.

Re:Can victims opt out of this settlement? (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#33485786)

Heh, interesting how you can lose your rights so easily.

You have to opt-in to get your share of the settlement, but you have to opt-out to retain the right to sue seperately.

Re:Can victims opt out of this settlement? (1)

anguirus.x (1463871) | more than 3 years ago | (#33478366)

Meh, I would probably prefer to donate whatever paltry sum I received to an organization for promoting internet privacy. Your point still stands, however. It would be nice if they would allow members of a class to vote where their settlement ended up.

$6.5 million? (0)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477302)

That's it?

Re:$6.5 million? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33477372)

Nope. $2 million more.

Re:$6.5 million? (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477816)

Clearly I shouldn't be posting so early in the afternoon.

But still, that seems like a small sum of cash for giving away people's private information.

Re:$6.5 million? (1)

severoon (536737) | more than 3 years ago | (#33479146)

Yea...it's nothing compared to what Facebook has paid out in privacy settlements over the years, and even that is orders of magnitude less than those invasive ad companies that do profiling based on packet inspection. Remember all those stories on those big settlements?

Neither do I. Neither does anyone. Because they never happened.

Makes one wonder (4, Interesting)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477364)

(Makes one wonder)...why Facebook wasnt sued out of existence ages ago? Even now, it either ignores privacy settings I choose, or, via it's "likes" pages, makes them irrelevant. My full name shows up on "Favorite Bands are Iron Maiden" even though my likes are supposedly hidden.

Re:Makes one wonder (2, Insightful)

dissy (172727) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477472)

The actual reason is because facebook is not google.

You see, those privacy advocate groups do not want any sort of privacy or protections for you or anyone else. They simply want to hate on a successful company.

Same reason just yesterday a quite loud "privacy group" was hating on google, yet using googles own analytical services to spy on everyone going to their website, trying and succeeding in giving you less privacy.

These people love to hate, and see dollar signs all over the legal system that they grew up with and know how to exploit.

This is why they target only google, and not target privacy abuses.

The best extreme stereotypical figure that comes to mind is Lionel Hutz [wikipedia.org] on The Simpsons

Re:Makes one wonder (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477580)

These people love to hate, and see dollar signs all over the legal system that they grew up with and know how to exploit.

So, they will be going after Facebook sometime. Facebook isn't exactly a poor startup anymore.

Re:Makes one wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33478110)

And who might those "privacy advocate" groups may be? EPIC? EFF? Noscript tells me neither of their websites loads code from external domains. And yes, they are the primary organisations who launched the campaign.

Re:Makes one wonder (0, Redundant)

dissy (172727) | more than 3 years ago | (#33479016)

Consumer Watchdog

http://yro.slashdot.org/story/10/09/03/177246/Anti-Google-Video-Runs-In-Times-Square [slashdot.org]

I do not see any stories yesterday on slashdot about Google and EFF nor EPIC.

Re:Makes one wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33480244)

And I think Google once claimed that it was paid for by Microsoft.

Re:Makes one wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33479798)

I don't see google-analytics being reported by NoScript.

Re:Makes one wonder (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477650)

Facebook hides behind the almighty TOS.

Re:Makes one wonder (3, Funny)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477762)

Facebook hides behind the almighty TOS.

Hey, I love Star Trek too, but I dont hide behind it... ;-)

Re:Makes one wonder (1)

DavidD_CA (750156) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477748)

Did you test this from someone else's account, or your own?

Often what you see in Facebook is different from what your friends, their friends, or complete strangers will see.

Your own privacy limitations have no affect on how you see your own information.

And if I remember correctly, from the privacy settings page there is even an option to "view your profile" as if you were someone else, to see it as they would.

Re:Makes one wonder (1)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477806)

Please explain why GOOGLE can see it then? Did Facebook provide them a blanket superuser account? Or wait! No, the truth is, the information was made PUBLIC.

Viewing my profile as someone else would see it shows my picture. None of the rest of my information. A google search (or searching likes on Facebook), since all my likes have turned into PUBLIC subscriptions (WITH my full name) to "Likes _____" (Music/Sports/etc) pages, makes virtually everything public.

Re:Makes one wonder (2, Informative)

matzahboy (1656011) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477782)

The difference between Facebook's privacy problems and Google's is that you knew Facebook's problems when you made the account. Google Buzz pretty much disclosed your frequently emailed contacts without the user doing anything. If Facebook automatically friended you to certain people, it would get sued for the same reason.

Re:Makes one wonder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33478048)

My full name shows up on "Favorite Bands are Iron Maiden"

I'd sue.

Re:Makes one wonder (1)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 3 years ago | (#33478070)

Fortunately, I dont care that much... especially since "the whole world" knows Iron Maiden is my favorite band... ;-)

Re:Makes one wonder (1)

fast turtle (1118037) | more than 3 years ago | (#33478286)

Hell I don't care that everyone knows my Favorite Band is "3 French Horns, 2 Turtle Doves and a Partridge in a Pear Tree".

poor victims! (1)

uncanny (954868) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477406)

"the victims (Buzz users)" those poor souls, while there are people are out there being raped, beaten, killed, etc... at least these people had justice today!

Re:poor victims! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33480450)

One of the people this happened to had an abusive ex-husband... so you might want to rethink your post.

"Buzz"? (1)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477460)

WTF is "Google Buzz", something to drink? Nevermind. I guess Google can afford it.

Re:"Buzz"? (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477622)

I prefer Google Gulp myself.

i can see clearly now! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33477590)

it couldnt be more obvious that lawyers are evil.

This is absolutely wrong (3, Insightful)

Pecisk (688001) | more than 3 years ago | (#33477592)

Such amount of data about such theoretical overblown privacy buzz? Layers dance a happy dance. Americans, your legal system *sometimes* (so far) is farce.

Re:This is absolutely wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33479344)

Layers is Adobes way to tap in, not the Gog's.

Let's keep up now or the buzz will fade like a rusty hobnail up through your soul.

If I remember correctly (2, Interesting)

oljanx (1318801) | more than 3 years ago | (#33479826)

When Google Buzz was introduced I had the option to opt-in to the service. So I did. And as it turned out, all of my contacts, who had also chosen to opt-in to the service, were able to "buzz" me. Or whatever lingo is attached to this service. And they didn't, and neither did I. And we went on our ways, existing in each others contacts list.

$8.5M? (1)

pedantic bore (740196) | more than 3 years ago | (#33480826)

Hmmm... according to the figures that Google released for its 2009 financial report, that's about how much profit makes every day... before breakfast.

Somehow I doubt that the loss of 0.1% of their yearly profit is going to motivate Google to change their behavior. Making them look like their release process is totally ad-hoc and unreviewed, and like they don't give a flying fig about privacy, seems much more effective.

buzz off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33481070)

Google your gmail address, if you use buzz.

Even if you do not use buzz, google your gmail address. Any status updates you make on the chat box will appear.

I killed buzz.

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