Another privacy blunder sees Google Plus closing sooner than expected

11 Dec 2018

Google Plus app icon. Image: agencyby/Depositphotos 

Google Plus will be winding down sooner than expected following the discovery of a second bug.

It has been a turbulent time for the Google Plus social network.

In October of this year, the company announced it was shutting down all consumer functionality for the platform, following the discovery and subsequent patching of a bug in March.

Another bug at Google Plus

Yesterday (10 December), Google announced that a second bug affecting a Google Plus API was discovered following a software update introduced in November of this year. The bug impacted approximately 52.5m users in connection with a Google Plus API.

Similar to the bug disclosed in October, this issue allowed developers to potentially access profile data that was not public, including email addresses, usernames, ages and occupations. It said that no third party compromised its systems and it has no evidence that the developers that inadvertently had access due to the bug were aware or misused it in any way.

With this incident marking the second privacy issue in just two months for Google Plus, the company has decided to shut it down in April of next year, as opposed to the original end date of August 2019. API access for developers will be shut down within 90 days.

The company stated: “We understand that our ability to build reliable products that protect your data drives user trust. We have always taken this seriously, and we continue to invest in our privacy programmes to refine internal privacy review processes; create powerful data controls; and engage with users, researchers, and policymakers to get their feedback and improve our programmes.”

The firm is also notifying any enterprise customers that may have been affected by the bug. System administrators can expect to receive a list of impacted users, if they have been affected. The company reiterated that it would continue to invest in Google Plus for enterprise.

CEO in the hot seat

The announcement of the expedited shutdown of Google Plus comes as company CEO Sundar Pichai is set to appear before Congress in the US today (11 December). House Republicans are set to grill Pichai on topics such as transparency, data collection and content filtering.

Prepared remarks released yesterday from Pichai showed a strong pushback against claims of political bias levelled at the company by some Republican figures. “I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way. To do otherwise would go against our core principles and our business interests,” Pichai said.

Google Plus app icon. Image: agencyby/Depositphotos 

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects