Google Shuts Down Google+ After Privacy Breach

Gerald Bowen
October 10, 2018

The Wall Street Journal reported that the company kept quiet about the leak which occurred between 2015 and March 2018 when it was found and fixed.

While no evidence was found that indicates this bug was ever misused, it was determined that the complexity of protecting and operating a social network like Google+ was not a worthwhile endeavor when so few users actually used the service for any length of time.

The Google+ flaw could have allowed 438 external apps to scoop up user names, email addresses, occupations, gender and age without authorization.

The company did a review of its third party developer access to Google accounts and Android device data and found a bug in the Google + People APIs. When those friends signed into apps using Google+, app developers ask for permission to get profile information and are granted.

A bug in Google+ exposed the personal data of almost 500,000 people and Google chose not to disclose it out of fears of regulatory pressure. "None of these thresholds were met in this instance", wrote Ben Smith, a Google vice president of engineering.

The company also admitted the low engagement statistics of Google+.

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Only apps that directly enhance email functionality will be authorised to access consumer Gmail data, and will be subject to new rules on handling the information as well as security assessments.

Google says that the data of half a million people was compromised, but because they only log data for two weeks, they're unable to say who was impacted. 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. 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.

Despite the social network closing down, you can still take action.

Google says that 90 per cent of Google+ user sessions lasted for less than five seconds. Users will be able to download and migrate their data. However, it's possible that data were abused and Google just doesn't know about it yet. If an app wants access to a Calendar and Drive documents, for example, you can opt to share one but not the other.

Google, replying to requests for comment, defended its decision not to disclose.

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