Google Plus to shut down after massive data breach

by Linda Olson October 10, 2018, 1:31
Google Plus to shut down after massive data breach

The Google+ vulnerability was discovered at a time that nearly coincided with the notorious privacy leakage scandal of the world's largest social media network Facebook, which has been widely criticized for its failure to protect its users' private data.

The Wall Street Journal broke the news of the software bug, reporting that Google chose to not disclose the problem "because of fears that doing so would draw regulatory scrutiny and cause reputational damage".

The company discovered the issue right when the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal was still fresh on everyone's minds.

Additionally, Google is limiting which apps can seek permission to users' consumer Gmail data.

Earlier this year, Google started a project to review third-party developer access to Google accounts through the use of APIs.

In addition to "sunsetting consumer Google+", the company is making changes to APIs on its other services, which will limit the amount of access developers get to data on Android and Gmail. The bug appears to have been active between 2015 and 2018.

Google said it couldn't determine which users were impacted by this bug because the API was created to keep logs for only two weeks, and it didn't have access to historical data longer than that.

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Google said up to 438 external applications, such as online games or quizzes, could have exploited the flaw.

A Google Australia spokesperson was unable to say how many local users were affected by the flaw, saying: "Every year, we send millions of notifications to users about privacy and security bugs and issues".

Google plans to shutter its Google+ social network for consumers, citing its limited adoption with users. Thankfully, according to Google, no developer was aware of the bug, was misusing the Google+ API, or had misused private data from users' profiles. "We made a decision to sunset the consumer version of Google+", the company said in the post.

Given the potential for abuse, and the fact that nearly no one is using Google+, Alphabet opted to take the path of least resistance and yank the doddering network off life support. In the meantime, Google says users should stay tuned for more information on how to download their data from the site, should they so desire.

For Google, a data privacy reckoning may finally come as a result of a service that it admits nearly no one uses much anymore.

The bug meant that apps also had access to Profile fields that were shared with the user, but not marked as public.

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