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.
Worse yet, the tech titan then decided not to inform these users of the breach for fear that doing so would draw regulatory scrutiny and damage its brand, sources tell The Journal.
"Whenever user data may have been affected, we go beyond our legal requirements and apply several criteria focused on our users in determining whether to provide notice", a Google spokesman said in a statement.
Apparently keen to prove that Facebook isn't the only company that can get itself into boiling hot water over privacy and data, Google has today joined the club by confirming that a Google+ security bug allowed third-party developers to access user data unimpeded, with the issue dating all the way back to 2015.
Google+ will come to an end for consumers next August, but business users will still be able to use the service as an internal corporate social network.
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.
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As a part of the announcement of the breach, Google has chose to implement more fine-grained permissions for accessing user data from apps. This, combined with the community's extremely low user base-90% of Google+ sessions are under 5 seconds-were enough for Google to be done with it for good.
The company says it discovered and patched the issue in March but decided not to disclose it immediately. "None of these thresholds were met in this instance", wrote Ben Smith, a Google vice president of engineering.
A major security bug appears to also be to blame for the Google+ shutdown. Despite this, they still plan to shut down Google+, providing people the next ten months to migrate their personal information.
The decision was made by a standing company committee, the Privacy & Data Protection Office, before being reviewed by senior executives.
Given the potential for abuse, and the fact that nearly no one is using Google+, Alphabet opted to take the path of least resistance and yank the doddering network off life support. Nor did I agree to hand over information from my Facebook account to a quiz app that one of my Facebook friends downloaded.
Google signed a consent decree with the FTC in 2011 to settle allegations that an earlier social media platform, Google Buzz, mishandled user data.