Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is paying $8.5 million to settle a class action lawsuit charging that its Google Buzz microblogging feature violated users’ privacy. The debut of the service last February was a fiasco, with privacy advocates saying that the service made private information public on users’ Google profiles by default, and the company was forced to repeatedly tweak the product post-launch to alleviate those concerns. That however didn’t placate congressmen or privacy groups who called on the FTC to investigate.
The class action lawsuit alleged that “Google automatically enrolled Gmail users in Buzz, and that Buzz publicly exposed data, including users’ most frequent Gmail contacts, without enough user consent,” according to a briefing. The $8.5 million is being allocated to unnamed groups “focused on Internet privacy education and policy,” as well as to cover legal fees. Google has also agreed to educate users about the “privacy aspects of Buzz.”
It’s unclear how many Buzz users actually remain. Google has never disclosed usage numbers; a spokesman tells us today that it has “millions of active users worldwide.” But Buzz has been far from a hit, and a TechCrunch report this week-end ominously noted that the service was sounding “more like crickets.”