Search engine giant Google has agreed to pay $8.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit initiated by users furious about the way social networking feature Buzz was thrusted upon them.
The service, which has been launched back in November, has been presented as a social networking and messaging tool and initially leveraged the hundreds of millions of users that Gmail has.
Buzz offers similar features as Twitter and can integrate with a number of other online services as well; in addition, comments can be organised into conversations and will be visible in the user's inbox.
The group of seven Gmail users claimed that Buzz had violated their personal privacy and will each receive $2,500; the some of the money, $2.55 million going to the legal team and the rest to organisations that advocate online privacy.
Google had been criticised because Buzz automatically opted in users and shared details with their contacts with limited granular controls; in one case, the contact of one user had been shared with her former "abusive" husband.
The settlement has yet to be approved by the federal judge in charge of the case and will see Google being more actively involved in educating people about privacy controls in Buzz.
Google commented in a statement that “We have always been committed to offering users transparency and choice in Buzz and all our products, and will continue to work together with users to provide the best user experience possible."