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Enraged Gmail Users Grab Pitchforks, Sue Google over Buzz

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As if a wave of Internet uproar and a privacy complaint to the FTC weren’t enough, Google’s Buzz has finally sparked that all-important benchmark of consumer discontent: a class-action lawsuit.

According to lawyers for Eva Hibnick, Buzz wasn’t just a shoddy addition to their favorite e-mail service, it was actually illegal. Lawyers for the 24-year-old Harvard law student allege that Buzz broke numerous electronic communication laws, including the Federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Federal Stored Communications Act and California common and statutory law. With Hibnick as the figurehead, they’ve filed a class-action lawsuit in a San Jose court.

“I feel like they did something wrong,” said Hibnick, according to ABC News. “They opted me into this social network and I didn’t want it.”

The majority of complaints about Buzz revolved around its automatic friend selection process. When Google activated Buzz, existing Gmail users automatically became part of the network, with their most commonly contacted friends added as followers for all to see. As a flurry of fuming users pointed out, this opened the door for all sorts of accidental reveals: a journalist’s confidential sources exposed, an employee’s contact with a rival company, a husband’s continued correspondence with an ex.

Although Google has since relented and changed the privacy controls for Buzz, Hibnick’s lawyers still feel Google’s opt-out model is deceptive, and that the damage has already been done from the private information shared at launch.

The complaint seeks an injunction barring Google from the same type of action in the future, along with “unspecified monetary relief.”

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Nick Mokey
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