Google+ social media service to shut down after private data of at least 500,000 users exposed
Alphabet Inc’s Google will shut down the consumer version of its failed social network Google+ and tighten its data-sharing policies after announcing that private profile data of at least 500,000 users may have been exposed to hundreds of external developers.
- Google did not disclose leak due to fears of regulation, according to the Wall Street Journal
- Google+ launched in 2011 but was not able to compete with Facebook
- Google also announced changes to its Gmail and Play Store apps to improve privacy
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 that Google opted not to disclose the security issue at the time due to fears of regulatory scrutiny, citing unnamed sources and a memo prepared by Google’s legal and policy staff for senior executives.
Google feared disclosure would invite comparison to Facebook’s leak of user information to data firm Cambridge Analytica, the Journal reported, adding that chief executive Sundar Pichai had been briefed on the issue.
Google declined to comment beyond its blog post.
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.
Google+ copied Facebook with status updates and news feeds and let people organise their groups of friends into what it called “circles”.
But Google+ and the company’s other experiments with social media struggled to win over users because of complicated features and privacy mishaps.
Google+ has around 2 billion user accounts, but less than 400 million active users worldwide and many of those are through business accounts, according to Google blogs and various statistics monitors.
Google also introduced several policies on Monday that are designed to curb the data accessible to developers offering mobile apps on the Google Play store or add-on apps for sending and organising Gmail messages.
Play Store apps will no longer be allowed to access text message and call logs unless they are the default calling or texting app on a user’s device or have an exception from Google.
Gmail add-ons available to consumers starting next year will be barred from selling user data and be subject to a third-party security assessment that would cost them between $15,000 to $75,000, Google said.