Google+ for consumers to shut down after 500,000 user data exposed

By @chelean on
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Alphabet Inc is shutting down its social media service Google+ Creative Commons

The consumer version of Google+ will be shut down soon. Alphabet Inc will shut down its flopped social network after discovering that the private data of at least 500,000 of its users may have been exposed to third-party apps.

Google discovered the breach in March. The company believed the bug occurred after launch as a result of the API’s (application programming interface) interaction with a subsequent Google+ code change. Although it had patched the bug immediately, the bug had already potentially affected the Profiles of up to 500,000 Google+ accounts.

Its investigation found no evidence that any developer was aware of the breach or abused the API. It also found no evidence that any Profile data was misused.

Wall Street Journal, which first reported the story, said that Google decided not to disclose the issue that that time as executives were concerned by regulatory scrutiny. A memo prepared by the company’s policy and legal teams apparently warned against disclosing the problem because it might result in Sundar Pichai, chief executive, being called to testify in front of Congress, just as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had been.

In a blog post, Vice President of Engineering Ben Smith wrote that they regularly informed users of bugs and issues. But in this instance, there was no evidence of misuse.

“Every year, we send millions of notifications to users about privacy and security bugs and issues. Whenever user data may have been affected, we go beyond our legal requirements and apply several criteria focused on our users in determining whether to provide notice,” the blog reads.

“Our Privacy & Data Protection Office reviewed this issue, looking at the type of data involved, whether we could accurately identify the users to inform, whether there was any evidence of misuse, and whether there were any actions a developer or user could take in response. None of these thresholds were met in this instance.”

Nevertheless, their review highlighted several changes that they needed to make to maintain standards. “Given these challenges and the very low usage of consumer version of Goole+, we decided to sunset the consumer version of Google+.

Google would give users time to transition, though. Over a 10-month period set to be completed by August 2019, it would provide consumers with additional information, including ways to download and migrate their data.

Google has also introduced several policies curbing the data accessible to developers. Play Store apps will not be allowed to access text messages and call logs anymore.

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