Google+ to be killed after bug exposed up to 500,000 accounts

Chesnot/Getty Images
Chesnot/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Google said it’s pulling the plug on its unpopular Google+ social network after admitting to a software bug that exposed the personal information of as many as 500,000 users.

The tech giant announced the news on the company blog, disclosing the compromised user-privacy issue for the first time, despite knowing about it for seven months.

“We discovered and immediately patched this bug in March 2018,” Ben Smith, the company’s vice president of engineering, wrote. The software flaw affected how the social network, created to rival Facebook but never seriously challenging it, interacted with third-party applications.

“We are shutting down Google+ for consumers,” Smith added, admitting that the product was, at best, underwhelming. “While our engineering teams have put a lot of effort and dedication into building Google+ over the years, it has not achieved broad consumer or developer adoption. … The consumer version of Google+ currently has low usage and engagement: 90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds.”

The company will wind down Google+ over 10 months, targeting an August 2019 shutdown.

The Wall Street Journal broke the news
of the software bug, reporting that Google chose to not disclose the problem “because of fears that doing so would draw regulatory scrutiny and cause reputational damage.”

The WSJ reported that the exposure dates back to 2015, although the company didn’t comment on how long information was exposed.

The information accessed a user’s profile information, including the name, email address, occupation, gender and age, according to the blog post, which added: “The bug meant that apps also had access to Profile fields that were shared with the user, but not marked as public.”

As many as 438 outside apps may have connected with the flawed software. The company stated in its post that there was no evidence “that any developer was aware of this bug, or … that any Profile data was misused.”

The company also debuted a number of new privacy controls, including limiting the apps that can access Gmail, call log, and text messaging data.

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