SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge issued final approval for an $8.5 million class-action settlement brought on by 31 million Gmail users who sued Google for their exposing personal information without their consent through a feature called Google Buzz.
Fourteen privacy groups will split a little over $6 million. The rest will go toward attorneys’ fees. U.S. District Judge James Ware also determined that the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University also deserve a piece of the settlement. The bulk of the money will go to the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation, which will get $700,000 and $1 million, respectively.
When Google launched the Buzz feature, which allows users to post updates, photos and videos for “followers” to view, users decried a host of apparent privacy flaws. The original February 2010 lawsuit claimed Google had revealed sensitive information like “the names of a doctor’s patients or a lawyer’s clients,” or the contacts of a gay person “who was struggling to come out of the closet and had contacted a gay support group.”
The class claimed Google automatically signed up Gmail users for the program without telling them they would have to “opt out.” Though Google eventually modified the application to address privacy concerns, the lawsuit claimed “the bell of breached privacy cannot be un-rung.”
Google announced the details of this settlement in November.