Google shuts down Google+ following massive security flaw

Google hit by data leak charges after Facebook accused of hiding it from users

In 2011, it found that Google broke its own privacy policies when it introduced its Buzz social network - a precursor to Google+.

However, it sounds like Google was ready to shut down the platform regardless of this issue, citing in its announcement the consumer version's "very low usage". Google says that a bug in the Google+ People APIs "meant that apps also had access to Profile fields that were shared with the user, but not marked as public".

Google said it had reviewed the issue, looking at the type of data involved, whether it 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.

Users can grant access to their Profile data, and the public Profile information of their friends, to Google+ apps, via the API.

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.

The Wall Street Journal broke the news of the software bug, reporting that Google chose to not disclose the problem "because of fears that doing so would draw regulatory scrutiny and cause reputational damage". The issue reportedly affected users on the site between 2015 and March 2018. Google has since made a decision to shut down the network for consumers. Google eventually peeled away some of the services most popular features, including Hangout chats and its photo capabilities, into standalone apps.

Google came under criticism for refusing to send a top executive to a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on 5 September about efforts to counteract foreign influence in United States elections and political discourse.

Over the coming months, Google will update users with additional information, including ways to download and migrate data.

The internet giant found the flaw in March during an extensive privacy and security review, Ben Smith, Google vice president of engineering, said in the statement.

As a result of the security audit, Google plans to allow users to more tightly control what data is available to applications that sync with Google accounts or its free Gmail email service. Google adds that it "cannot confirm" which users were affected, but over 500,000 of them could have been.

The company will wind down the Google Plus network during a 10-month period expected to be done by the end of next August, Smith wrote in his post.

Google has thus far been able to defer much of the criticism to Facebook and Twitter, but the Google+ bug may thrust it further into the spotlight.

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