SAN FRANCISCO (CelebrityAccess) — Google on Monday, abruptly revealed that it planned to shutter Google +, it’s social media service after it discovered that a security flaw in the service had potentially exposed the personal data of as many as 500,000 users of the service.
In a blog post on Monday, Google said they had discovered the flaw in March, but declined to reveal it at the time after finding no evidence that the bug had been exploited.
“We discovered and immediately patched this bug in March 2018. We believe it occurred after launch as a result of the API’s interaction with a subsequent Google+ code change,” Google’s Vice President of Engineering Ben Smith wrote.
“We made Google+ with privacy in mind and therefore keep this API’s log data for only two weeks. That means we cannot confirm which users were impacted by this bug. However, we ran a detailed analysis over the two weeks prior to patching the bug, and from that analysis, the Profiles of up to 500,000 Google+ accounts were potentially affected. Our analysis showed that up to 438 applications may have used this API.”
“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.”
The decision to delay notifying consumers about the security vulnerability may have ramifications for Google in the face of recently enacted laws in California and Europe that stipulate how a company must disclose a data breach. However, it is unclear how those rules might apply to an unexploited vulnerability.
According to Google, an internal review of the service following the discovery of the security vulnerability led the company to make the decision to pull the plug on Google + as a consumer-facing service by the end of August 2019.
“This review crystallized what we’ve known for a while: that 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, and has seen limited user interaction with apps. The consumer version of Google+ currently has low usage and engagement: 90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds,” Smith wrote.
Google first launched the service amid much fanfare in 2011 as an answer to the growing dominance of Facebook in the world of social media. Google + replaced the company’s social networking offerings, including Google Buzz, Google Friend Connect, and Orkut, but service failed to gain a consumer following.
By 2014, Google + was being described in the press as a “ghost town” and the New York Times reported that while the service had 540 million monthly active users that only have of them visit the site regularly.
Google responded that the service was less significant as a Facebook competitor than as a means of gathering and connecting user information from Google’s various services.
In 2015, the service underwent a dramatic redesign, removing some features such as Google Hangouts, which is now a standalone feature, and refocusing the Google Plus community and affinity-sharing tools.