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

Google headquarters in Mountain View California.                  Stephen Shankland  CNET

Google headquarters in Mountain View California. Stephen Shankland CNET

Alphabet Inc's Google exposed the private data of hundreds of thousands of users of its Google+ social network and opted not to disclose the issue partly due to fears of regulatory scrutiny, the Wall Street Journal said, citing unnamed sources.

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.

Google said it did not let people know because it did not have enough evidence about the breach.

"We found no evidence that any developer was aware of this bug, or abusing the API, and we found no evidence that any Profile data was misused", Google said.

"None of these thresholds were met here.", she said.

Google+ launched in 2011 as the advertising giant grew more concerned about competition from Facebook, which could pinpoint ads to users based on data they had shared about their friends, likes and online activity.

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That partly because Google uses the Pixel phones to demonstrate the best way to use Android and also wants to ensure the software has a place on devices designed for wealthy consumers - a segment of the market that Apple dominates.

Google+ will shut down for consumers at the end of next August, giving users time to download or transfer their data.

Google discovered and immediately patched this bug in March 2018. The company has found no evidence that Profile data was misused.

Although the Google+ breach was on a much smaller scale, it appears that staff were anxious about the possibility of Google being swept up in the tsunami of bad press that engulfed Facebook, which ultimately wiped $US60 billion off the social network's value. '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+.

"Our review showed that our Google+ APIs, and the associated controls for consumers, are challenging to develop and maintain". The company initially closely connected Google+ with a number of other Google products, including YouTube, Hangouts and even search.

In response to this, Google+ will be shutting down for regular users. However, Google claims that this vulnerability went unnoticed and apparently no third-party was able to exploit the vulnerability to access user date.

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