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Google exposed data for hundreds of thousands of users

10 October, 2018, 16:28 | Author: Rafael Roberts
  • Social Network Google Plus Bug Exposed Data Of Lakhs To Be Shut Down

Google announced today that it is shutting down the Google+ social network after the company's engineers found an API bug that might have exposed some private profile data for more than 500,000 Google+ users. And an internal memo noted that while there wasn't any evidence of misuse on behalf of developers, there wasn't a way to know for sure whether any misuse took place. In turn, this meant that nearly 500,000 users' names, email addresses, dates of birth, gender, location, occupation, and relationship status were made available to developers, all without their knowledge. The flaw exposed user data from 2015 until this past March, according to the report.

Despite some news outlets focusing on Google+ shutting down, or on the data exposure itself, BuzzFeed News tech reporter Ryan Mac expressed that the real story was the company's response.

When Google+ launched in 2011, it was envisioned as a possible rival to Facebook, The Associated Press reported.

"Going forward, consumers will get more fine-grained control over what account data they choose to share with each app", Google said. However, a report by The Wall Street Journal newspaper suggested that the Mountain View, California, company wanted to avoid drawing regulatory scrutiny.

Per the Wall Street Journal, Chief Executive Sundar Pichai was briefed on the plan to not disclose the data breach. Now, only apps that fit a particular use case will be able to access these permissions.

Google also said it would begin restricting the data it provides to outside developers.


Google also said the consumer version of Google+ had low usage and engagement and 90% of user sessions are less than five seconds long, essentially trashing its own product to cover up.

Google claims there was no evidence of misuse of the data.

"Our analysis showed that up to 438 applications may have used this API", Google said.

Ortega said such delays in reporting data leaks could become more common among technology companies as they looked to protect their reputation in the wake of legislation and privacy laws.

Google, replying to requests for comment, defended its decision not to disclose. (An earlier WSJ piece described how some Gmail apps were allowing employees to read users' emails and sell the data to marketers.) The changes apply to new Gmail apps immediately, and to existing ones early next year.

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