Google hid Google+ security flaw that exposed users' personal information

Google hid Google+ security flaw that exposed users' personal information

Google hid Google+ security flaw that exposed users' personal information

Google will shut down the consumer version of its social network Google+ after announcing data from up to 500,000 users may have been exposed to external developers by a bug that was present for more than two years in its systems.

Click on The Wall Street Journal for more.

According to the paper, the memo said that while Google could not find evidence that the exposed data had been misused, it also could not prove that misuse did not happen.

Meanwhile, Google said the flaw was an unexploited API bug discovered and fixed internally before anyone externally found it - and in any case, it's shuttering Google+ because netizens don't use it. Businesses will still be able to use the service as an internal chat channel, though.

Google feared disclosure would invite comparison to Facebook Inc'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.

"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. This privacy breach, in addition to dwindling user numbers and engagement, has prompted the search giant to shutter the consumer side of Google+.

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Google+ copied Facebook with status updates and news feeds and let people organize their groups of friends into what it calls "circles".

Google+ was launched in June, 2011 as a way to compete with other social networks such as Facebook.

"Our review showed that our Google+ APIs, and the associated controls for consumers, are challenging to develop and maintain". Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) closed the day at $1,155.92 per share, off more than 10 percent off its 52-week high of $1,291.44. As a result of a software bug related to the APIs used for Google+, 438 apps potentially had access to names, birthdates, email addresses, profile photos, occupations and more data covering 496,951 Google+ users.

The company said it determined its course of action based on the data involved in the breach, lack of evidence of misuse and challenges in accurately determining which users to inform.

Google's new policy and Gmail API access rules won't safeguard Gmail users from having their inboxes pilfered for data, but it will make it harder for an app to gain access to such data in the first place. If you use the service for work, though, Google+ is not going anywhere. In other words, when an app requests access to Google account data, multiple dialog boxes pop up, each with a request for a particular permission, rather than one large dialog box with all the requested permissions (i.e. location, contacts, calendars) lumped together.

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