Google+ to Shut Down Following Bug That Exposed 500K Profiles

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The news adds to Google's woes and further erodes the narrative that Facebook is the worst offender of the major technology companies on data privacy.

Alphabet Inc's Google will shut down the consumer version of its failed social network Google+ and tighten its data sharing policies after announcing on Monday that private profile data of at least 500,000 users may have been exposed to hundreds of external developers.

Google says it hasn't found any evidence that developers were aware of the bug, so it's unlikely that anyone abused it.

Google says that the data of half a million people was compromised, but because they only log data for two weeks, they're unable to say who was impacted.

The bug was discovered in one of the Google+ application programming interfaces (APIs) when the company conducted an audit of third party developer access to Google accounts and Android data, in a project called Project Strobe.

But it's not doing so exclusively out of concern for users' privacy: Smith admitted the network is not a success, saying "The consumer version of Google+ now has low usage and engagement: 90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds".

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"The flaw was discovered in March, but Google opted not to disclose this vulnerability as it found no evidence that the information had been misused".

The revelation is likely to heighten the stakes of his coming appearance to testify before Congress, amid allegations that technology companies are squelching conservative voices online. Presumably, they wanted to avoid a PR hit, as that was the same time that Facebook was being slammed in the media for not stopping Cambridge Analytica from stealing data from millions of users.

The core of the problem exposed by Cambridge Analytica and Facebook's relationship with hardware companies, by the reporting on Apple's dealings with software developers, and by the Journal's reporting on Gmail and now Google+ is that the public has no control.

Google also announced that, "we can not confirm which users were impacted by this bug".

The company went on to say that the bug, and the "very low usage of the consumer version of Google+', has made the company decide to 'sunset" the consumer version of the social network.

Despite that, the company plans to keep Google+ operational as an enterprise product, allowing companies to use it as an internal communication platform for employees. Info like phone numbers, email messages, timeline posts, and direct messages were not surfaced by this API. This bug allowed apps that had access to Profile fields that were shared with the user but not marked as public.

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