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the Buzz surrounding Google’s $8.5 million settlement

10 September 2010

Google have agreed to pay $8.5 million to settle a class action brought by a group of customers using Gmail accounts (Google’s email service).

Google signed up its Gmail users to BUZZ, their new social networking application, without their prior consent. The BUZZ application created the user’s network on the basis of their email contacts but Gmail users objected saying that this violated their privacy, as Google’s activities resulted in Gmail users contact details being shared with others against their wishes.

With a proportion of the settlement payment going to organisations educating and promoting online privacy, this case illustrates the importance of online privacy and the need to get users consent to the receipt of services via opt in/opt out controls prior to launch. Having seen Google stung for $8.5 million in this case, hopefully others will not be inclined to indulge in similar ‘anti-social’ networking.

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