Settlement Proposed in Google Buzz Class Action Litigation

Published On September 8, 2010 | By ZwillGen | Litigation, Privacy
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Last Friday, September 3, 2010, Plaintiffs and Class Counsel moved for preliminary approval of the settlement agreement in the In Re Google Buzz User Privacy Litigation.  The class action suit, filed in the Northern District of California, was spurred by Google’s launch of its social network, “Google Buzz” on February 9, 2010.  Plaintiffs alleged that aspects of Google Buzz, particularly its automatic enrollment of Gmail users and the consequential disclosure of Gmail users’ email contacts without sufficient consent, violated (1) the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2510, (2) the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2701 et seq.; (3) the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1030 et seq., (4) the California common law tort of Public Disclosure of Private Facts, and (5) the California Unfair Competition Law, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 17200.

Google denies any wrongdoing related to Google Buzz, maintains that it has meritorious defenses to all claims alleged in the Complaint and contends that the Class Action Plaintiffs have mischaracterized the operation of Google Buzz.  However, after undergoing formal mediation, the Plaintiffs, Class Counsel and Google agreed to settle their dispute. 

The Settlement (1) acknowledges that Google has made changes to Buzz to address user privacy concerns including providing enhanced privacy settings, (2) requires that Google undertake wider public education about the privacy aspects of Buzz, and (3)creates a $8.5 million Settlement Fund payable to cy pres recipients, specifically organizations focusing on Internet privacy policy or privacy education.   A hearing on the fairness of the terms of the settlement is currently scheduled to take place before Judge Ware on December 20, 2010.  A copy of the terms of the proposed settlement agreement can be found here.

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