Google+ to shut down after user information exposed

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Google Plus, an Internet-based social network owned and operated by Google has lately been in the news over the exposing of data of up to 500,000 users. Google, the search giant didn’t disclose the vulnerability because it reportedly feared regulatory scrutiny.

The company’s technical staff discovered the bug in March and decided not to disclose the issue to its users because they hadn’t found anyone that had been affected at that time, the company said in a blog post. Around a week ago, Google announced on its blog that it will shut down Google+ after discovering that private user information may have been made public and the reason being a bug in the software that allowed apps, an access to profile fields that were not marked as public.

Even though the exposure claimed was minimal, it still included the names, email addresses, occupation, gender, and age of the users. They did not have access to phone numbers, messages, Google Plus posts or data from other Google accounts, the company said. Google looked at the “type of data involved, 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.

None of these thresholds was met in this instance,” Ben Smith, a Google vice president for engineering, wrote in the blog post. “The review did highlight the significant challenges in creating and maintaining a successful Google+ that meets consumers’ expectations,” Ben said in an announcement. “Given these challenges and the very low usage of the consumer version of Google+, we decided to sunset the consumer version of Google+.” Shutting down of Google+ only applies to individuals as the product is better suited for businesses and will continue in that form.

The company also mentioned that the ones who were on the Google+ train will have 10 months to transition away from it, during which time they will be provided with information about how to migrate their data. The memo, according to The Wall Street Journal, warned that disclosing the problem would invite regulatory scrutiny and that Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, would likely be called to testify before Congress. Earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, testified in congressional hearings about Cambridge Analytica’s (British research organisation) role in Trump’s Campaign which had apparently gained access to the personal information of up to 87 million Facebook users inappropriately.

After the following incident, Google claimed that they will look into the security for all apps that ask for access to user data and that the consumers will get more fine-grained control over what account data they choose to share with each app. Launched in 2011, in 2015 90 per cent Google+ profiles have never made a single post.

– Zoyena Ansari

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