Google+ to shut down after security bug

Joanna Estrada
October 10, 2018

According to The Wall Street Journal, the company didn't disclose to its customers the data breach for fear of damaging its reputation as well as facing a potential for a regulatory inquiry.

Google hoped to avoid comparisons to Facebook's leak of user information to Cambridge Analytica, the data firm accused of improperly using information on 87 million Facebook users on behalf of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, the Journal said. Exposed data included names, email addresses, birth dates, gender, profile photos, places lived, occupation and relationship status.

Google does not yet have a lead EU Supervisory authority, as the breach apparently happened before the EU's new privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation, was implemented.

In addition to the sunsetting of Google+, Project Strobe brings in new, more granular controls over the data Android and Gmail users share with apps. The lawsuit was blocked in the High Court on Monday. The bug allowed for developers that had access to Google+'s API to access information of users that gave permission to the program.

Google ran an internal test and found that as many as 496,951 users may have had their data compromised, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Google also said the consumer version of Google+ had low usage and engagement and 90% of user sessions are less than five seconds long, essentially trashing its own product to cover up.

Google has worked to improve Google+ over the years with several notable updates ever since the social network first launched in 2011.

Speaking about the exposed data, Google said on Monday: "We found no evidence that any developer was aware of this bug, or abusing the API, and we found no evidence that any profile data was misused". When those friends signed into apps using Google+, app developers ask for permission to get profile information and are granted.

Google did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Why is Google+ being killed?

In response to the breach, Google is shutting down all consumer functionality of Google+.

Given the potential for abuse, and the fact that nearly no one is using Google+, Alphabet opted to take the path of least resistance and yank the doddering network off life support.

On Android, Google will limit apps ability to receive users call logs and short messaging service (SMS) data.

In any case, the conclusion is the same: Google is shutting down the consumer version of Google+, citing challenges in maintaining the service effectively.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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