Google Shutters Google+ Following Privacy Vulnerability

Google Shutters Google+ Following Privacy Vulnerability

The Journal reported that the Google+ breach exposed Google's "concerted efforts to avoid public scrutiny of how it handles user information" at a time when regulators are the public are trying to do more to hold tech companies to account.

Google exposed the data of hundreds thousands of Google+ users due to a faulty API, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

In a blogpost about the shutdown, Google disclosed the data breach, which it said potentially affected up to 500,000 accounts.

According to the WSJ, Google chose not to divulge the data breach because "the incident would likely trigger "immediate regulatory interest" and invite comparisons to Facebook's leak of user information to data firm Cambridge Analytica". And in a dramatic move, the company has announced that it is shutting down Google+ for consumers.

"In the interim, since we can not trust that we know much or even most of what ought to concern the public, the FTC should install public-minded privacy monitors into the firms as an element of accountability". Ben Smith, Google's VP of Engineering, disclosed more information about the security issue, and how it was discovered. It analyzed third-party developers' access to Google account and Android device data to measure whether permissions were overly broad. Google found that no one was using it, saying that "Google+ now has low usage and engagement: 90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds".

No matter how much you use social media, you probably haven't used Google+ very often, if at all. "By giving developers more explicit rules of the road, and helping users control your data, we can ensure that we keep doing just that", reads the blog.

Google followed suit, letting outside developers access some Google+ data with users' permission. However, Google contends that there's no evidence that profile data was misused.

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Google+ will be shutting down over a period of about 10 months, and will vanish by next August.

In a statement to BleepingComputer, a Google Spokesperson said that their Privacy & Data Protection Office felt it was not necessary to disclose as it did not meet the threshold that would warrant it.

Finally, app access to Call Logs and SMS on Android are going to be limited moving forward.

A spokeswoman for Google said that whenever user data may have been affected it determines whether to tell people based on a number of criteria.

The bug was a part of a flaw in an application programming interface (API) Google created to help app developers access profile and contact information for users who sign up for the service, including information shared with Google+.

Google's post said the API failures came to light through a review dubbed Project Strobe.

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