Google Plus to close after bug leaks personal information

The Google app logo is seen on a smartphone in this illustration

Google+ launched with much fanfare in 2011, positioned as the search giant's answer to Facebook.

But in a blog post today, Ben Smith, Google Fellow and Vice President of Engineering, said the bug allowed third-party apps to also gain access to users' data that was marked private, not just the public data the apps would have normally been allowed to see.

Interestingly, the company released a statement on its personal blog page that it's terminating Google+ services, moments after a Wall Street Journal report exposed the breach, which reportedly is set to have affected over 500,000 users on Google+. Well, these plans even include permanently shutting down all consumer functionality of Google+. The bug allowed for developers that had access to Google+'s API to access information of users that gave permission to the program.

The data involved was limited to optional profile fields, including name, age, gender, occupation and email address, Google said.

The parallel was not lost on Google, and the company chose not to disclose the data breach, the Wall Street Journal revealed Monday, in order to avoid the public relations headache and potential regulatory enforcement. That said, social media is the business where Google has failed to mark its presence. Google has since made a decision to shut down the network for consumers.

Google's post said the API failures came to light through a review dubbed Project Strobe.

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As many as 438 outside apps may have connected with the flawed software.

The company also debuted a number of new privacy controls, including limiting the apps that can access Gmail, call log, and text messaging data.

Google also announced new API changes in an effort to restrict developers' access to data on Android devices and Gmail. In recent years, Google began to de-couple Google+ from its core services, and shifted its focus on standalone products like Google Photos. For example, Google says that 90 percent of Google+ sessions last less than five seconds.

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.

Apps will be required to inform users what data they will have access to. The shut down will take place over a 10 month period, with the social network shutting down in August 2019. It's possible you have a Google+ page with personal data on it and simply forgot about it. Google pushed its social platform very hard for several years, going so far as to integrate its comments with YouTube and make web logins part of G+.

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