Wind ones memory back to the stone ages of last February. Some of us were pretty excited about this new thing Google launched, Buzz. (see Initial look at Google Buzz - the newest social networking service) But it quickly became a "meh" thing that hasn't taken hold in my life anyway. At the same time a bunch of people were in an uproar because Buzz insinuated itself into our gmail accounts, and was enabled for us without reasonable amount of gaining agreement (aka "opt-in"). Google then went through some changes to Buzz to address concerns. But it seems that a class action lawsuit was launched, anyway.
I don't recall being asked whether I wanted a lawsuit to be launched, but there I am included in the Class. (any gmail user in the U.S.A. who was offered an opportunity to use Buzz before Nov 2, 2010)
A curious WTF sorta thing is - the notification email for the settlement, was sent to my gmail account inbox, but ended up in the SPAM folder. I'm curious just how many of these "Important information about Google Buzz Class Action Settlement" emails ended up in SPAM folders? One wonders, did Google rig Gmail to send these notifications to SPAM folders? Or do they routinely send class action settlement notices to SPAM folders?
Here's a copy of my notice, as it appears in the SPAM folder of my Gmail account. Notice the "Back to spam", "Delete forever" and "Not spam" buttons that are Gmail's way of indicating SPAM messages.
One has to wonder, was this a legitimate email? The e-mail includes a link to http://www.BuzzClassAction.com which seems to be legitimately discussing a class action settlement. There's no phishing on the site. And I'm not alone in questioning whether it's bogus or not.
Interestingly I'm not the only one where the notification went straight to the SPAM folder. WTF? Does Google want to hide this class action settlement from their users?
The last bit of WTF about this is the actual settlement itself. The amount awarded was $8 million but we the injured don't get to see a penny. Instead the lawyers will be paid, and a trust fund set up to fund some privacy initiative or other. Specifically:
- First, Google agreed to make, and did make, changes to Buzz that clarify its operation and users' options regarding Google Buzz, including, in particular, changes regarding user information and control over Buzz's privacy settings. The Settlement Agreement recognizes that since the inception of this Action Google has made these changes to Google Buzz.
- Second, Google will do more to educate users about the privacy aspects of Google Buzz. Google will consider the recommendations of Plaintiffs about the content of that public education. Google will select and design the final content of the public education efforts in its discretion, and will provide a report to Plaintiffs’ lead lawyer of the education undertaken.
- Third, Google will pay a total of $8,500,000 into an interest-bearing account. This $8,500,000, plus interest, will constitute the “Common Fund.” Because few, if any, Class Members suffered compensable actual damages and because a pro rata distribution of the fund to the Class would not be feasible due to the size of the Class, the Common Fund amounts in excess of fees, costs, expenses, and incentive awards will be distributed to organizations that advance the privacy interests of internet users such as the Class Members. The Settlement Agreement, available at www.BuzzClassAction.com, describes all of the details about the proposed Settlement Agreement.
To unpack that settlement a bit - the first recipients of money will be the lawyers.
13. How will the lawyers be paid? Class Counsel will ask the Court for attorneys’ fees of 25% of the Common Fund, plus reimbursement of costs and expenses. Class Counsel will also request that the seven Class Representatives who helped the lawyers on behalf of the whole Class each receive a $2500 incentive award. The Court may award less than these amounts. The payment of attorneys’ fees, incentive awards and reimbursement of costs and expenses will be deducted from the Common Fund prior to the distribution of the Common Fund to the selected Internet privacy organizations.
The second recipients will be "organizations that advance the privacy interests of internet users". We, the supposedly damaged, receive nothing.
Personally I don't care much because I don't feel damaged by anything Google did with this. My outrage is in these class action lawyers who won this settlement. They sniffed money, saw deep pockets, and wangled a settlement that benefited them. Google lost, and we lost. Bleah.
For those who object to the settlement - go to the BuzzClassAction website and download the document giving the settlement details. That document contains complete details of the settlement, how to object, where to send your objections, etc, as if that will do any good. Bleah.