Irish data regulator seeks information from Google on security bug

Alfred Osborne
October 9, 2018

The flaw meant some Google profile information that users had thought was private, such as a person's email address, occupation, gender or age, could have been viewed by third parties, the company said in a post on a corporate blog.

It's important to know that removing your Google+ account doesn't delete your general Google or Gmail account, or any of the photos you've got saved on Google Photos.

A memo reviewed by the Journal prepared by Google's legal and policy staff and shared with senior executives warned that disclosing the incident would likely trigger "immediate regulatory interest" and invite comparisons to Facebook's leak of user information to data firm Cambridge Analytica.

Google came under criticism for refusing to send a top executive to a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on September 5 about efforts to counteract foreign influence in United States elections and political discourse.

'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, ' Smith said.

Google did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.

The vulnerability worked like this: one user would be able to share those intimate details with friends they choose who are on the network.

Google has found that businesses have been using it as a secure internal social network of sorts, and they are looking to capitalize on that going forward. Google will also work with developers to give them time to adjust the required permissions for apps and services that will be affected by the changes.

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Google+ has always been the butt of many jokes as a failed social network that refuses to die, but according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal and then an official response from Google itself, it looks like it's been home to a serious security vulnerability for three years that Google chose to not disclose to the public.

Google today revealed that it's shutting down the consumer version of Google+.

Additionally, Google is limiting which apps can seek permission to users' consumer Gmail data.

"Only apps directly enhancing email functionality - such as email clients, email backup services and productivity services (e.g., CRM and mail merge services) - will be authorised to access this data", Smith added. Chief Executive Sundar Pichai was briefed on the plan not to notify users after an internal committee had reached that decision, the people said.

Google admitted in the blog post disclosing the bug that usage of Google+ has dropped off in recent years.

Google's Privacy & Data Protection Office reviewed this issue to look at the type of data involved to see if the firm 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, according to Smith.

A Google spokesperson cited "significant challenges in creating and maintaining a successful Google+ that meets consumers' expectations" along with "very low usage" as the reasons for the move.

The closure isn't because people are happier using Facebook and Twitter instead of Google's service.

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