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

Gerardo Harmon
October 11, 2018

The company, however, can not confirm which users were affected by the bug when it was active from 2015 to 2018.

The company revealed that the usage and engagement of Google+ is even lower than some might have guessed, as 90 percent of user sessions lasted less than 5 seconds.

"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".

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Google is closing its social network, Google Plus, following the discovery of a security breach this past spring, in which up to 500,000 customers (between 2015 and 2018) had their information exposed. A report in the Wall Street Journal says Google did not disclose this information sooner because it feared regulatory scrutiny. "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", Google declared.

Google said it patched the bug in March this year, and Smith said Google found no evidence that any developer was aware of the bug or had abused the API.

The bug gave apps access to information on a person's Google+ profile that can be marked as private.

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While no evidence was found that indicates this bug was ever misused, it was determined that the complexity of protecting and operating a social network like Google+ was not a worthwhile endeavor when so few users actually used the service for any length of time.

Google said it couldn't determine which users were impacted by this bug because the API was created to keep logs for only two weeks, and it didn't have access to historical data longer than that. "That means we can not confirm which users were impacted by this bug".

The Google+ data leak bug was found as part of "Project Strobe", a root-and-branch review of what data developers could access from Google accounts, and Android devices. The service will wind down over the next 10 months, with the goal of finishing the shutdown by the end of August 2019. Despite this, they still plan to shut down Google+, providing people the next ten months to migrate their personal information. "When an app prompts you for access to your Google account data, we always require that you see what data it has asked for, and you must grant it explicit permission", he said.

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