Google to shut down Google+ social network

Google headquarters in California

Google, the world’s giant search engine has announced its plans to shut down Google+ after exposing data of up to 500,000 users between 2015 and March 2018.

In a blog post, Google disclosed that the social network also has low usage and that 90% of user sessions last less than five seconds.

Google’s decision follows the Wall Street Journal’s revelation also published on October 8, that the company exposed hundreds of thousands of Google+ users’ data earlier this year, and opted to keep it a secret;

“A software glitch in the social site gave outside developers potential access to private Google+ profile data between 2015 and March 2018, when internal investigators discovered and fixed the issue, according to the documents and people briefed on the incident. A memo reviewed by the Journal prepared by Google’s legal and policy staff and shared with senior executives warned that disclosing the incident would likely trigger “immediate regulatory interest” and invite comparisons to Facebook’s leak of user information to data firm Cambridge Analytica,” read part of the report.

The company didn’t disclose the vulnerability when it fixed it in March because the company didn’t want to invite regulatory scrutiny from lawmakers, according to a report Monday by The Wall Street Journal.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai was briefed on the decision to not disclose the finding, after an internal committee had already decided the plan, the Journal said.

Google said it found the bug as part of an internal review called Project Strobe, an audit started earlier this year that examines access to user data from Google accounts by third-party software developers.

The bug gave apps access to information on a person’s Google+ profile that can be marked as private that includes details like email addresses, gender, age, images, relationship statuses, places lived and occupations.

Up to 438 applications on Google Plus had access to this API, though Google said it has no evidence any developers were aware of the vulnerability.

“The review did highlight the significant challenges in creating and maintaining a successful Google+ that meets consumers’ expectations,” Ben Smith, vice president of engineering, wrote in a blog post. “Given these challenges and the very low usage of the consumer version of Google+, we decided to sunset the consumer version of Google+.”

The decision comes following an earlier move brought by Facebook in March after its Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which a UK-based digital consultancy harvested data on 87 million Facebook users without their permission.

Google has already drawn controversy over its data collection practices.

In July, the company was criticized after reports that employees for third-party email apps could read our emails if we integrated those apps with our Gmail account.

Google was hammered again a month later, when the Associated Press revealed the company was tracking users’ locations even after they’d turned off their phones’ location history setting.

Last month, Google Chief Privacy Officer Keith Enright alongside representatives from other tech and telecom giants including Apple, Amazon and AT&T testified before the Senate on privacy practices in Silicon Valley.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai reportedly is expected to take the hot seat in another congressional hearing after the US midterm elections in November.

Google+ launched with much fanfare in 2011, positioned as the search giant’s answer to Facebook. But the social network never gained traction among consumers.

Google eventually peeled away some of the services’ most popular features, including Hangout chats and its photo capabilities, and put them into standalone apps.

The search giant said it will shut down Google+ over the next 10 months, to be completed by next August, to give people a chance to migrate their information and get used to the transition.

After Google announced the social network’s shutdown, even people who helped launch the product said the time had come to end it.

Source: Mkarimu media and News Agencies

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