Google Shutters Google+ Following Privacy Vulnerability

Alfred Osborne
October 10, 2018

According to a Monday Wall Street Journal report, Google chose not to disclose the breach to users due to fear of sustaining damage to the company's reputation and incurring more government regulation.

The Google Plus data potentially exposed includes names, email addresses, occupations, dates of birth, genders and profile photos.

At least two US states are investigating a breach at Alphabet Inc's Google that may have exposed private profile data of at least 500,000 users to hundreds of external developers.

Parent company Alphabet Inc responded by announcing it would shut down Google+, a largely defunct social network launched in 2011 to compete with Facebook.

The company cited the reason of the closure as the fact that Google+ had failed to achieve "broad consumer or developer adoption". Up to 496,951 users could have been affected, and up to 438 apps could have accessed the data.

Earlier on Tuesday, Ireland's data protection regulator said it would seek more information from Google regarding the breach.

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While Google says there is no clear misuse of profile data that occurred as a result of this breach, MacMillan of the Journal says it raises questions about the company's commitment to user privacy.

Google says the consumer version of the Google+ will be shuttered by next August, though companies may still use a different version.

"The flaw was discovered in March, but Google opted not to disclose this vulnerability as it found no evidence that the information had been misused".

This bug helped outside developers to gain access to users personal data. The company initially closely connected Google+ with a number of other Google products, including YouTube, Hangouts and even search. There's so little interest in Google+ it's being killed off. "Ultimately it will be up to users to proactively monitor how their data is used and what applications have access to that data by using strong passwords and carefully reviewing access requests prior to using an app like Google+", she added.

But it's not doing so exclusively out of concern for users' privacy: Smith admitted the network is not a success, saying "The consumer version of Google+ now has low usage and engagement: 90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds". Third-party SMS apps will still be allowed, but they can only access this data if the user sets the app as their default for text messaging.

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