Google is shutting down its much-maligned social network, Google+, after user data was exposed. Google News, for instance, would show the identify of the reporter responsible using Google+, while Google+ profiles were used as the underlying link for Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, and more.
Google wants to complete the sunsetting process for the consumer version of Google+ by August 2019. Currently, Google+ has "low usage and engagement", according to Google, and 90 percent of user sessions last less than five seconds.
The bug, discovered in March during an internal company review, could have allowed outside software developers - or people posing as outside developers - to learn the names, email addresses, occupations, genders and ages of Google+ users. This bug could allow a user's installed apps to utilize the API and access non-public information belonging to that user's friends. But Google says it has no way of confirming these numbers or which users may have had their data exposed improperly.
Google now joins both Twitter and Facebook in disclosing a privacy breach in the past three weeks. It also found "no evidence that any developer was aware of this bug, or abusing the API", and it found "no evidence that any profile data was misused".
"The review did highlight the significant challenges in creating and maintaining a successful Google+ that meets consumers' expectations", Ben Smith, vice president of engineering, wrote in a blog post.
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After performing a code review of the Google+ APIs, called Project Strobe, Google stated they discovered a bug that could leak the private information of Google+ accounts. Still, outside app makers were not supposed to have access to private profile information.
Along with this, Google will also force app developers to provide more detailed explanations of what it intends to do with your Google Account if it's requesting access to it. By giving developers more explicit rules of the road, and helping users control your data, we can ensure that we keep doing just that. They'll further limit these permissions by removing contact interaction data for the Android Contacts API.
If you break down Google's announcement to the core you will realize that Google made a decision to shut down Google Plus because of low user interaction with the service and the prospect of investing lots of resources into the service to make it more attractive to users. However, Google contends that there's no evidence that profile data was misused. Google plans to turn Google+ into an Enterprise-focused product.
The announcement comes as public scrutiny has intensified around Silicon Valley tech giants' management of user data, among other issues.