Google+ gets the ax after exposing users’ private info


You get extra points if you remembered that Google+ was still a thing.
You get extra points if you remembered that Google+ was still a thing.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Google took a one-two punch to the chin today by having to admit its once-ballyhooed Facebook competitor is a dud. There’s so little interest in Google+ that it’s being killed off.

That would normally be bad enough, but the shutdown isn’t just because of lack of interest. A bug in Google+ exposed the personal information of users, something Google didn’t mention for a half a year.

Google+ went nowhere

Google+ launched back in 2011 with a. feature set very similar to Facebook. Users could post images and status reports, put people in their Circle, and chat with others via Hangouts.

It didn’t catch on. Ben Smith, Google Fellow and VP of Engineering, admitted in a statement “It [Google+] has not achieved broad consumer or developer adoption, and has seen limited user interaction with apps. The consumer version of Google+ currently has low usage and engagement: 90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds.”

And then there’s the privacy issue

A bug was found in the Google+ code during a review process earlier this year. Users who granted third-party applications access to their public data also had some private data shared.

According to Smith, “This data is limited to static, optional Google+ Profile fields including name, email address, occupation, gender and age.”

The problem was found and fixed in March, but a furor has arisen about Google not disclosing this data breach until now. The Wall Street Journal reports the company didn’t reveal what had happened “in part because of fears that doing so would draw regulatory scrutiny and cause reputational damage.” The bug first began exposing personal data in 2015, and hundreds of thousands of people are affected, according to the WSJ.

Google’s Smith, on the other hand, says “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.”

The Trump administration is indeed taking the first steps into regulating Google, Facebook and similar companies that aggregate vast amounts of customer data. Apple, on the other hand, has nothing to worry about.

Google+ will be phased out over the next 10 months. In the mean time, changes are being made in the Android operating system to make more secure the process of granting third-party applications access to user data.