Published: Wed, October 10, 2018
Hi-Tech | By Grace Becker

Google shutting down Google+ after covering up privacy bug

Google shutting down Google+ after covering up privacy bug

The data of hundreds of thousands of Google+ users were exposed from 2015 through March 2018, when Google discovered and fixed the problem. According to a report published Monday by The Wall Street Journal, the vulnerability wasn't disclosed because Google didn't want to be subjected to regulatory scrutiny from lawmakers.

According to the blog post, the Google Plus data that was potentially exposed included names, email addresses, occupations, date of birth, profile photos and genders. Before patching it, Google ran an analysis and found that up to 500,000 Google+ accounts were affected.

Google plans to shutter its Google+ social network for consumers, citing its limited adoption with users.

Google is also said to working on improving security elsewhere, including restricting developer access to things such as SMS, call logs, and contact data on Android and add-ons for Gmail.

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

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These actions are only the beginning, with Google advising they will roll out additional controls and update their policies across more APIs in the coming months.

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. "The consumer version of Google+ now has low usage and engagement: 90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds", the company said in a statement. A bug in the API could have allowed outside developers to access the data of 496,951 users who had only opted to share their private profile data with friends. Also in recent weeks, Google has been strongly criticized about building a search engine that would censor information as part of a possible-entry into China. "Additionally, the decision not to disclose the discovered vulnerability speaks to a fear of reputational damage and possible legal ramifications or litigation in light of recent Senate hearings and the GDPR [the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation]".

Google's disclosure comes at a time when the SEC is putting increasing pressure on corporations to disclose data-security incidents and has reopened its cybersecurity unit.

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