Google+ to be killed after bug exposed up to 500,000 accounts

Google to shut down Google+ after users’ data exposed

Google headquarters in Mountain View, California.

In weighing whether to disclose the incident, the company considered "whether we could accurately identify the users to inform, whether there was any evidence of misuse, and whether there were any actions a developer or user could take in response, a Google spokesman told WSJ".

The US internet giant said it will "sunset" the Google+ social network for consumers that failed to gain meaningful traction after being launched in 2011 as a challenge to Facebook. The parallel was not lost on Google, and the company chose not to disclose the data breach, the Wall Street Journal revealed Monday, in order to avoid the public relations headache and potential regulatory enforcement.

Google+ has always been the butt of many jokes as a failed social network that refuses to die, but according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal and then an official response from Google itself, it looks like it's been home to a serious security vulnerability for three years that Google chose to not disclose to the public.

The report alleges that the bug became active in 2015, only being discovered by Google and shut down in March of this year. That includes details like email addresses, gender, age, images, relationship statuses, places lived and occupations.

Google's project team analyzed the available APIs provided to developers and found out that these were "challenging to develop and maintain". "This is a direct result of the scrutiny that Facebook dealt with regarding the Cambridge Analytica scandal".

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.

Secondly, access to the Gmail API is going to be limited to only those apps that directly enhance email functionality.

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

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. Shortly after the article was published, Google said it would close the Google+ social networking service to consumers.

Despite the breach, it is still sad to see to the social network go.

Google says that 90 per cent of Google+ user sessions lasted for less than five seconds. The shutdown of Google+ won't happen immediately but will instead be a "wind-down" that ends in August 2019.

The company acknowledged that as part of the Project Strobe audit, "we discovered a bug in one of the Google+ People APIs". Still, outside app makers were not supposed to have access to private profile information. It could not definitely say how many users were affected because it said it keeps only two weeks of such records.

The only way to fully delete your Google+ account at this time is to completely delete your Google Account, which you can do here.

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