Closure of Google+ follows personal information leak

By Hannah Kwon | 9 October 2018

Google is closing down its social media network, Google+, as of next year after it was found a bug exposed user's personal data.

A report in The Wall Street Journal uncovered the tech giant was aware of the exploitation of its users’ personal data from as early as 2015, but avoided to disclose this information for fear of ridicule.

The data problem comes as a result of a glitch in an API developed in the sign up area of the site.

"Our review showed that our Google+ APIs, and the associated controls for consumers, are challenging to develop and maintain. Underlining this, as part of our Project Strobe audit, we discovered a bug in one of the Google+ People APIs,” says Google following the revelations.

The personal data that the software glitch left open to outside developers includes users’ names, dates of birth, relationship data, employers and job titles.

"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,” a spokesperson for Google said.

Google had been advised by lawyers that they were not legally required to disclose this information.

"Our privacy and data protection office reviewed this issue, looking at the type of data involved, whether we could accurately identify the users to inform, whether there was any evidence of misuse, and whether there were any actions a developer or user could take in response. None of these thresholds were met here,” a Google spokesman said in a statement.

"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.”

In March of this year, Google made efforts to rectify the situation by running several tests, but ultimately the site will be closed.

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