Published: Wed, October 10, 2018
Industry | By Dora Warner

Google Plus to close after bug leaks personal information

Google Plus to close after bug leaks personal information

Google said Monday it is shutting down the long ailing social network Google+ for consumer use amid new scrutiny of the company for reportedly failing to publicly disclose a security bug affecting hundreds of thousands of accounts on the service. And an internal memo noted that while there wasn't any evidence of misuse on behalf of developers, there wasn't a way to know for sure whether any misuse took place.

According to the company, profile information like name, email address and age from some users was available to apps, even if users had not marked it public.

That breach left the personal information of about 500,000 users exposed, and was caused by a bug on a People API on Google+.

Despite some news outlets focusing on Google+ shutting down, or on the data exposure itself, BuzzFeed News tech reporter Ryan Mac expressed that the real story was the company's response.

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Google says it found no evidence that any developer was aware of this bug, or abusing the API, and it found no evidence that any Profile data was misused.

Upon discovering the bug, Google patched it, but opted not to disclose it to the public out of fear of regulatory pressure and unfavorable comparisons to Facebook's Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal.

Monday's report comes in the wake of Google CEO Sundar Pichai upcoming testimony before Congress over concerns the search engine is bias against conservatives.

Google has admitted that adoption of the its social network and subsequent user engagement has been low, with 90% of Google+ user sessions lasting for less than five seconds.

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All of this has led Google to finally admit Google+ was a failure, with the company announcing that it will close over the next ten months with a pivot to the enterprise market in the cards.

However, Google only keeps the log data of the API in question for two weeks, due to privacy reasons, and therefore "cannot confirm which users were impacted by this bug", Smith added.

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

The security flaw will mean the end of Google+ for consumers, the company said. In addition, Google Account permissions dialog boxes will be split to show each requested permission, one at a time, within its own dialog box.

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