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09 October 2018, 10:15 | Cameron Gross
Google+ to Shut Down Following Bug That Exposed 500K Profiles
Well, this is a major security flaw that brought users personal data to risk.
Google's plan to withdraw the free version of Google Plus, scheduled for August, could help strengthen its case to USA policymakers and regulators that it is different from Facebook, which has faced political heat over allegations that data belonging to 87 million of its users was improperly shared with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica. So a group of the company's executives ruled that the firm should stay quiet about the flaw, and reportedly informed Sundar Pichai, Google's CEO, of their decision.
Google told WSJ that it came to the conclusion not to disclose the issue based on several factors, including whether the company could accurately identify the impacted users, whether there was any evidence of misuse and whether there was any action the users could have taken.
But in a blog post today, Ben Smith, Google Fellow and Vice President of Engineering, saidthe bug allowed third-party apps to also gain access to users' data that was marked private, not just the public data the apps would have normally been allowed to see. Third-party SMS apps will still be allowed, but they can only access this data if the user sets the app as their default for text messaging.
"We found no evidence that any developer was aware of this bug, or abusing the API, and we found no evidence that any Profile data was misused".
Although Google discovered and patched the potential data leak in March 2018, the company initially opted not to publicize it.
We made Google+ with privacy in mind and therefore keep this API's log data for only two weeks.
Now, users will be given greater control over what account data they choose to share with each app.
Google has even admitted that no one actually usesGoogle+. Up to 496,951 users could have been affected, and up to 438 apps could have accessed the data.
In any case, the conclusion is the same: Google is shutting down the consumer version of Google+, citing challenges in maintaining the service effectively.
The Google+ shutdown, meanwhile, will occur over the next 10 months, so get your fill before August 2019.
"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. Google plans to change the way apps ask for permissions, giving Android users more control over which permissions they want to give. The company was the target of a massive class action lawsuit in the United Kingdom after 4 million users had their personal data collected and allegedly used for targeted advertising.
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