Privacy Groups Battle Over Cash From Google Buzz Settlement

Google (NSDQ: GOOG) really wants to put the mistakes it made with Google Buzz behind it, but that’s turning out to be hard to do. The FTC has imposed new privacy rules on Google, while the company is also trying to put to rest a class-action lawsuit filed last year.
In November, Google agreed to a settlement of that class-action suit under which it would pay $9.5 million to online privacy advocacy and research groups. The idea behind the settlement is to disperse the money among non for profit groups that work on online-privacy issues. See our chart below on which groups stand to gain from the settlement.
While the $9.5 million is pocket change for Google, it’s a serious chunk of cash for some of the non-profits that stand to get a piece of the pie-and now those groups are fighting over the spoils. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a prominent Washington, D.C., privacy group, has filed court papers objecting to how the cash was split, as Reuters (NYSE: TRI) was first to report.
In a motion [PDF] filed earlier this week, EPIC, which was cut out of the settlement entirely, complains that six of the twelve groups that stand to get money already receive funding from Google “for lobbying, consulting, or similar services.” The implication by EPIC is that Google is giving the settlement cash to its favored research groups, when that money is supposed to ultimately benefit a much broader group of people — every single Gmail user affected by the Buzz fiasco.
In an email to paidContent, EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg offered some additional explanation of why his organization deserves to be one of the beneficiaries of the settlement. It was EPIC that filed a complaint with the FTC over Buzz shortly after it launched, which provided both the basis for the recent FTC-Google agreement, and “the legal theories and factual record for the private litigation,” wrote Rotenberg.
EPIC also sent Google a letter in 2008 that it says led the search giant to put a link on its home page to its privacy policy. Rotenberg says that letter was “a big deal… We managed to get Google to comply with the California state statute requiring a privacy link on a commercial web site homepage. As a result, every person who goes to a Google web site has a direct link to the Google privacy policy.”
Other privacy groups that have signed on to EPIC’s motion and say they’re being left out include the Center for Digital Democracy, Consumer Action, Patient Privacy Rights Foundation, Privacy Activism, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, U.S. PIRG and World Privacy Forum.
For a look at who stands to get what in the settlement over Google’s Buzz privacy missteps, see our chart below.
»  EPIC’s objection [PDF]
»  Proposed settlement [PDF]
»  Information about groups benefitting from settlement [PDF]