Google Shutting Down Google+ After Privacy Breach Affecting Up To 500,000 Users

Google exposed personal data of almost 500,000 and didn't disclose it

Now, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, and internal memo at Google warned that going public about the data leak would attract "immediate regulatory interest". "None of these thresholds were met in this instance", wrote Ben Smith, a Google vice president of engineering.

The company is also stressing its commitment to security - now offering "more fine-grained control" of what account data Google users share with third-party apps. Google neglected to report the breach to the public, allegedly out of fear that the company would face regulations and damage to its reputation, according to sources and documents obtained by the Wall Street Journal. Google says that there was no evidence that the information was misused, but that a total of 438 apps had access.

The affected data is limited to static, optional Google+ Profile fields including name, email address, occupation, gender and age, Google said.

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".

Google+ was launched in 2011, quickly becoming a failed attempt to compete with Facebook. The company found no evidence the information was misused by any developers, Smith said.

Earlier this year, Facebook acknowledged that tens of millions of users had personal data hijacked by Cambridge Analytica, a political firm working for Donald Trump in 2016. "Underlining this, as part of our Project Strobe audit, we discovered a bug in one of the Google+ People APIs", Google said in its announcement. "Given these challenges and the very low usage of the consumer version of Google+, we made a decision to sunset the consumer version of Google+", Google said in the blog announcement. Google is also following from its limiting of Gmail scans by limiting which applications - namely, down to email apps - can do so.

Google has declined to comment on why it held off reporting the breach.

Even if a third party did not exploit the security vulnerability identified by Google, the SEC probably would be interested in whether investors were properly notified about the risks and the incident, Stark said.

Google+ is finally shutting down on a particularly sour note.

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