Google+, Google’s social network, to shut down after bug exposes users’ data

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Google exposed the personal data of about 500,000 Google+ users to potential misuse by outside developers for years through a bug, then concealed the error to avoid consequences, according to an investigation published by The Wall Street Journal Monday.

'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, ' Google said in a blog post. Strobe found a sizeable flaw in Google+' APIs, meaning that malicious apps could extract data from profiles, such as name, email addresses, occupation, gender and age.

Through the social network of Google+, data from hundreds of thousands of users has been exposed for years, and was discovered by Google this spring.

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The project launched in 2011 as an alternative to other social networks ended up being a huge failure for the company. The Wall Street Journal reports the company didn't reveal what had happened "in part because of fears that doing so would draw regulatory scrutiny and cause reputational damage". This is likely why an internal committee reportedly made the decision to keep the vulnerability a secret and briefed Google CEO Sundar Pichai about their plan. When those friends signed into apps using Google+, app developers ask for permission to get profile information and are granted.

Only apps that directly enhance email functionality will be authorised to access consumer Gmail data, and will be subject to new rules on handling the information as well as security assessments. This method will better secure third party APIs with Google services, allowing for less data to be given to outside applications.

Google's own social media platform i.e. Google+ is now shutting down permanently for consumers.

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Google said it was unable to confirm which accounts were affected by the bug, but an analysis indicated it could have been as many as 500,000 Google+ accounts.

"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.

Google says that like other tech companies, it has encouraged third-party developers to "build on top of our various services". In fact, 90%of Google+ user sessions only last less than five seconds. As of the time of this writing, it is impossible to know who had what information leaked.

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