Date
21 October 2018
Google is shutting down the Google+ social platform after admitting to a security flaw that exposed users' personal information. Photo: Reuters
Google is shutting down the Google+ social platform after admitting to a security flaw that exposed users' personal information. Photo: Reuters

Google+ social site to be shut down after user data exposed

Google will shut down the consumer version of its failed social network Google+ and tighten its data sharing policies after announcing on Monday that private profile data of at least 500,000 users may have been exposed to hundreds of external developers, Reuters reports.

The issue was discovered and patched in March as part of a review of how Google shares data with other applications, Google said in a blog post. No developer exploited the vulnerability or misused data, the review found.

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier, citing unnamed sources and a memo prepared by Google’s legal and policy staff for senior executives, that Google opted not to disclose the security issue due to fears of regulatory scrutiny. 

Google feared disclosure would invite comparison to Facebook’s leak of user information to data firm Cambridge Analytica, the Journal reported, adding that CEO Sundar Pichai had been briefed on the issue. 

Google said on Monday none of the thresholds it requires to disclose a breach were met after reviewing the type of data involved, whether it could identify the users to inform, establish any evidence of misuse, and whether there were any actions a developer or user could take to protect themselves.

Google+ launched in 2011 as the advertising giant grew more concerned about competition from Facebook, which could pinpoint ads to users based on data they had shared about their friends, likes and online activity.

The social platform copied Facebook with status updates and news feeds and let people organize their groups of friends into what it calls “circles.”

But Google+ and the company’s other experiments with social media struggled to win over users because of complicated features and privacy mishaps, Reuters noted.

Facebook introduced a feature that allowed users to connect their accounts with their profiles on dating, music and other apps.

Google followed suit, letting outside developers access some Google+ data with users’ permission. The bug disclosed on Monday, introduced in a software update, exposed private data including name, email address, occupation, gender and age, Google said.

The company could not definitely say how many users were affected because it said it keeps only two weeks of such records.

Google+ will remain an internal networking option for organizations that buy Google’s G Suite, a bundle of apps for creating documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

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CG/RC

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