Privacy group gets part of Google settlement: judge

SAN FRANCISCO Tue May 31, 2011 6:04pm EDT

Google Inc's logo is seen at an office in Seoul in this May 3, 2011 file photograph. REUTERS/Truth Leem/Files

Google Inc's logo is seen at an office in Seoul in this May 3, 2011 file photograph.

Credit: Reuters/Truth Leem/Files

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A U.S. judge approved a class action settlement over Google's Buzz social network, and awarded $500,000 to an Internet privacy group that had previously been left out of the proposed deal.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission last year, saying Buzz threatened the privacy of Gmail users. Google settled with the FTC this past March and agreed to independent privacy audits.

Google also agreed last year to resolve a separate proposed class action lawsuit brought by a Gmail user. Part of that deal provided for more than $6 million to be distributed to groups advocating for Internet privacy issues.

However, that list of groups did not include EPIC, which objected to the proposed settlement.

EPIC and a handful of other groups said the majority of funds would be allocated to groups that "receive support from Google for lobbying, consulting, or similar services," according to a court filing.

The plaintiffs called that argument meritless. But on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James Ware wrote that there was no good cause to exclude EPIC from the settlement.

"EPIC has demonstrated that it is a well-established and respected organization within the field of Internet privacy," Ware wrote.

"We appreciate the court's recognition of EPIC's important work," said EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg.

Representatives for Google and the plaintiffs did not respond to a request for comment. EPIC had originally requested $1.75 million.

The settlement also includes money for the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the YMCA of Greater Long Beach, among other groups.

The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California is In Re Google Buzz User Privacy Litigation, 10-672.

(Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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