Manitoban sues Google over Buzz program


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GOOGLE will be googling "lawsuit" this week, thanks to a Manitoban.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/01/2011 (4283 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

GOOGLE will be googling “lawsuit” this week, thanks to a Manitoban.

Tyler Wereha, of Rosa, is suing the Internet search engine giant for unspecified damages in a class-action suit over alleged problems with the launch of Goggle’s Buzz program earlier this year.

It took information from user email and integrated it with social networking accounts like Facebook.

Wereha’s lawyer, Norman Rosenbaum, alleges that even though Google told users on Feb. 9 they had a choice whether or not to activate Buzz, Google automatically activated it on users’ Gmail accounts.

“It’s a breach of privacy,” Rosenbaum said.

“It automatically affected all of your followers. Even if you said you didn’t want to have your email list forwarded, it did it anyway.”

The statement of claim, filed in Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench last week, alleges anyone who has exchanged at least one email with a person could add that person to their Buzz “following” list and immediately see private information, including the user’s profile, Buzz posts and follower and followings lists.

Information available to everyone “following” the user could contain the user’s occupation, where they live and contact information.

The lawsuit asks the courts to put a permanent injunction on Google, preventing it from operating Buzz in “a deceptive and unfair manner whereby causing the unwanted disclosure of personal information.”

Because it’s a class-action suit, other complainants can sign on.

Rosenbaum said there are allegations some of the email addresses forwarded in the U.S. included doctors’ email addresses from patient email directories.

“When Facebook made changes, they provided hard-to-follow directions, but at least there were some,” Rosenbaum said.

Google Buzz troubled the federal privacy commissioner’s office when it was launched in February.

In November, Google proposed an $8.5-million settlement in the U.S. over a Buzz class-action privacy lawsuit, but didn’t admit fault and suggested users had misunderstood the system.

Rosenbaum said under Manitoba law, each privacy breach can bring $5,000 worth of damages.

None of the allegations in the statement of claim has been proven in court.

A spokesman for Google could not be reached for comment.

Rosa is 85 kilometres south of Winnipeg on Highway 59.

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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