Google Shuttering Google+ for Consumers After Undisclosed Data Exposure

The Google+ social network that Google introduced back in 2011 suffered from a major bug that Google opted not to disclose to the public, reports The Wall Street Journal.

A Google+ software glitch provided outside developers with the ability to access private Google+ profile data from 2015 to March 2018. In the spring of this year, internal investigators discovered the issue and fixed it.

The problem was caused by a bug in a Google+ API designed to let app developers access profile and contact information about the people who signed up to use their apps. Google found that Google+ was also allowing developers to access the data of users who had their profiles set to private. Up to 438 apps had access to customer data.

During a two-week period in late March, Google ran tests to determine the impact of the bug, one of the people said. It found 496,951 users who had shared private profile data with a friend could have had that data accessed by an outside developer, the person said. Some of the individuals whose data was exposed to potential misuse included paying users of G Suite, a set of productivity tools including Google Docs and Drive, the person said. G Suite customers include businesses, schools and governments.

In an internal memo, Google's legal staff recommended against disclosing the bug because it would invite "immediate regulatory interest" and result in a comparison to Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Data from hundreds of thousands of users was potentially accessible, but Google did not discover misuse of the data by outside developers. Exposed data included names, email addresses, birth dates, gender, profile photos, places lived, occupation, and relationship status.

Phone numbers, email messages, timeline posts, and direct messages were not accessible.

As a result of the data exposure, Google today announced that it is shutting down Google+ for consumers and introducing new privacy measures. According to Google, it put together a privacy task force called Project Strobe at the beginning of the year to review the company's APIs.

Buried in a long document describing all of the privacy changes being implemented, Google confirms that a Google+ bug made private Google+ content accessible to developers.

Google explains that it did not opt to disclose information about the exposed data back in March because there was no evidence of misuse and no action a developer or user could take in response.

The review did highlight the significant challenges in creating and maintaining a successful Google+ that meets consumers' expectations. Given these challenges and the very low usage of the consumer version of Google+, we decided to sunset the consumer version of Google+.

Google is planning to shut down Google+ over a 10-month period, with the social network set to be sunset next August.

In addition to shutting down Google+, Google is introducing several other privacy improvements. More granular controls will be provided for granting Google Account data to third-party apps, and Google is going to limit the number of apps that have access to consumer Gmail data.


For Android users, Google will limit the apps able to access Call Log and SMS permissions on Android devices, and contact interaction data will no longer be available through the Android Contacts API.

Google's full list of privacy changes can be found in its new Project Strobe blog post.

Tags: Google, Gmail

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
23 months ago
Choosing to intentionally not disclose a data breach is the lowest of the lows.
Score: 85 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
23 months ago
It had been dead for years anyways.
Score: 56 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
23 months ago
You will struggle to get me to believe Google+ ever had “thousands” of users...
Score: 51 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
23 months ago
Once again Google ****s with peoples data and nothing happens.
Imagine if Apple did something like that, the coverage would be HUGE.
Score: 38 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
23 months ago
Google is a threat to industry security. They have no problem calling out other companies and their security issues, sometimes before even alerting said company.

But when their own products have security issues, let's sweep it under the rug.
Score: 33 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
23 months ago
Man. First Ping and now G+?

See you guys on MySpace!
Score: 30 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Apple Warns Against Closing MacBooks With a Cover Over the Camera

Friday July 10, 2020 11:12 am PDT by
Apple this month published a support document that warns customers against closing their Mac notebooks with a cover over the camera as it can lead to display damage. Image via Reddit Apple says that the clearance between the display and the keyboard is designed to very tight tolerances, which can be problematic. Covering the camera can also cause issues with automatic brightness and True Tone....

iPhone Users Who Experienced 'Batterygate' Can Now File to Receive Around $25 Settlement From Apple

Monday July 13, 2020 6:50 am PDT by
Earlier this year, Apple agreed to settle a U.S. class action lawsuit that accused the company of "secretly throttling" older iPhone models. Now, eligible iPhone owners are beginning to be notified about their legal rights and options. Under the proposed settlement, Apple will provide a cash payment of approximately $25 to each eligible iPhone owner who submits a claim, with its total payout ...

Apple Moving Forward on Semitransparent Lenses for Upcoming AR Headset

Friday July 10, 2020 7:24 am PDT by
Apple and Foxconn have reached a key milestone in the development of Apple's long-rumored augmented reality headset, with the semitransparent lenses for the device moving from prototype to trial production, reports The Information. Apple is developing the lenses on a single production line at a Foxconn factory in Chengdu in southwestern China, where most of Apple’s iPad production is...

Arm-Intel-PowerPC Universal Binaries Are Possible

Saturday July 11, 2020 1:42 pm PDT by
Casual MacRumors visitors may not realize that we have a very active PowerPC forum where users discuss issues related to PowerPC Macs that have not been produced since 2006. Threads range from hardware upgrades and software options to nostalgia: Photo by AphoticD Apple's recently announced transition to Apple Silicon (Arm) based Macs raised some interesting questions about future support...

Possible 'iPhone 12' Battery Certifications Suggest Lower Capacities Than iPhone 11 Series

Monday July 13, 2020 4:22 am PDT by
MySmartPrice has spotted certifications for three new Apple batteries that it believes could be for the upcoming iPhone 12 lineup, despite them being less capacitive than the batteries in the current iPhone 11 series. The batteries are identified with the model numbers A2471, A2431, and A2466, and appear on Safety Korea, China's 3C, and the Danish agency UL Demko. Apple is expected to...

Leaker: 'iPhone 12 Pro' to Come With 6GB of RAM

Friday July 10, 2020 1:59 am PDT by
Later this year, Apple is expected to release four OLED iPhones in three display sizes, including 5.4, 6.7, and two 6.1-inch models. Rumors suggest the 6.7-inch iPhone and one 6.1-inch model will be higher-end devices, and now leaker @L0vetodream has corroborated previous rumors about the internal specs of Apple's upcoming lineup. Rumors suggest Apple will use 5-nanometer A14 chips in its...

Kuo: Apple Silicon Macs to Include 13-inch MacBook Pro and MacBook Air This Year, 14.1-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro Models Next Year

Friday July 10, 2020 2:58 am PDT by
At last month's WWDC, Apple officially announced that its Mac computers will be transitioned from Intel x86 to homegrown Apple Silicon chips. Apple said it plans to deliver the first Apple Silicon Mac by the end of the year and complete the transition in about two years. According to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, a 13.3-inch MacBook Pro with a form factor similar to the current 13.3-inch...

Google to 'Dramatically' Improve Chrome Impact on Mac Battery Life

Sunday July 12, 2020 1:56 pm PDT by
Google will address long-standing battery life issues, particularly on Mac devices, reports The Wall Street Journal. Chrome will improve "tab throttling" by better prioritizing active tabs and limiting resource drain from tabs open in the background. This is said to have a "dramatic impact on battery and performance." Google has reportedly been performing early tests on Mac laptops in...

Top Stories: iOS 14 Public Beta, iPhone 12 Size Comparison, 14-Inch MacBook Pro Rumors

Saturday July 11, 2020 6:00 am PDT by
After one round of developer beta testing, Apple unleashed iOS and iPadOS 14 to a wider audience this week, opening it up to members of the public beta program. There are lots of changes and new features to check out, but as with any beta, be careful about installing it on your main devices. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Other major stories this week included our ...

Apple Shares Humorous 'Working-From-Home Thing' Video

Monday July 13, 2020 9:31 am PDT by
Apple today shared a funny video focused on the problems that people working from home have to deal with, including noisy children, chaotic schedules, communication issues, and more. The video focuses on showing off Apple products and their capabilities that can be useful when working from home, such as the ability to scan a document with an iPhone, mark up a PDF, Siri Reminders, and more.The...