Google Shuts Down Google

Google shuts down Google+ after a massive data breach which potentially leaked information of over 500,000 users

Google shuts down Google+ after a massive data breach which potentially leaked information of over 500,000 users

For Google, a data privacy reckoning may finally come as a result of a service that it admits nearly no one uses much anymore. It said it would add "more granular" screens for granting permission to access data, and was adding new limits to the data that third-party apps can use. The breach happened after a software glitch in the site gave outside developers potential access to private profile data including names, email addresses, birth dates, genders, occupations and more.

That fiasco had raised questions about the privacy practices of other big tech firms, including Google. It said it had no evidence that any third-party developer was aware of the bug or had misused profile data.

In a blog post, Google vice president of engineering Ben Smith confirmed the company had found a "bug" that affected as many as 500,000 users. Even in that short amount of time, Google's audit found that almost half a million Google+ accounts could have been affected in just 14 days' worth of analysis.

The Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous individuals, reports that Google deliberately avoided disclosing the problem at the time, in part to avoid drawing regulatory scrutiny.

A software bug in Google+ meant that the personal information of "hundreds of thousands" of users was exposed. The bug appears to have been active between 2015 and 2018. This bug allowed apps that had access to Profile fields that were shared with the user but not marked as public.

What's more, the company will "sunset" the Google+ social network in an operation called Project Strobe.

In response to this, Google+ will be shutting down for regular users. Gmail add-ons access will also be limited. The company says that it also will cut back on the amount of data belonging to Android and Gmail users that is available to outside developers.

During the next 10 months, Google will provide consumers with "additional information" regarding ways they can download or migrate their data to other social media platforms if they so desire.

Such apps include email clients, backup and productivity services, Smith said. Google said up to 438 external applications, such as online games or quizzes, could have exploited the flaw. An internal Google memo said that if it reported the issue, it would result in Google "coming into the spotlight alongside or even instead of Facebook despite having stayed under the radar throughout the Cambridge Analytica scandal".

Many have long suspected that Google+ was in its final days, but nearly no-one could have predicted it would end like this. The consumer version of Google+ now has low usage and engagement: "90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds". Google will announce new Enterprise-focused products for Google+ in the near future.

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