The "Do No Evil" Company May Not Be So Innocent.

The rollout of Google Buzz has raised serious privacy concerns, as well as serious concerns about the company's pervasiveness and our dependency on it, as Nancy Scola wrote for TAP recently. Now, some of those concerns have led to a class-action lawsuit against the company in California, according to the Christian Science Monitor. A woman named Eva Hibnick is seeking damages on behalf of all Gmail users:

The odds of this suit bringing any cash rewards for the plaintiffs, of course, are slim to none. But in a way, Hibnick has already made her point: news of the lawsuit is already the topic of thousands of blog posts, tweets, and status updates. Regardless of anyone's thoughts on the case, it's become a very real manifestation of the way some users feel about Buzz.

As we reported yesterday, Bradley Horowitz, Google's VP of product management, has admitted that the Buzz backlash caught some of the folks at Google off-guard. Still, Horowitz stopped short of suggesting Google Buzz was handled improperly.

What I think Nancy so rightly points out in her piece is that users are only learning the real costs of a product that is released for free. Many of the problems my friends and I had with Buzz in its first few days -- letting anyone follow you, using your contacts list to create automatic networks instead of letting you choose who to follow, too many redundancies between Buzz and other programs -- were the kinds of problems Google might have worked out were it trying to get a product on store shelves, because it wouldn't have been able to afford a consumer backlash. Gmail users were forced to be a free focus group for a new product, and that doesn't make Google feel like a company that's pledged to do no evil.

That Google was so unprepared for the backlash is what's really surprising.

-- Monica Potts

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