Google has announced that, due to a security vulnerability, the company will be shutting down Google Plus. Google Plus was Google’s mostly-unsuccessful answer to social networking. In March of this year, a security vulnerability was discovered, which exposed the private information of up to 500,000 users. The flaw was quietly fixed in an update made in March.
Because it didn’t seem like there has been any access to user information, Google did not announce this security issue when it was discovered. Their “Privacy & Data Protection Office” concluded that it was not legally required to make a report.
Around 438 applications made by other companies could possibly have had access to this security vulnerability through coding links known as “application programming interfaces.” These outside developers could have had access to the names, occupations, email addresses, ages, and genders of Google Plus users. Google did stress that the outside companies wouldn’t have had access to phone numbers, messages, posts on Google Plus, or information from other Google accounts.
The announcement made by Google may receive additional scrutiny due to a memo from Google’s policy and legal teams to the senior executives. This memo discussed the potential embarrassment for the company if it chose to take the security vulnerability public.
Google Plus was introduced in 2011 as a Facebook competitor that would serve to link users to various Google products including YouTube. However, it never really gained popularity and has become an afterthought. When engineers discovered the security vulnerability, they concluded that it wouldn’t be worth the effort to put in the work required to maintain Google Plus because of the meager use of the social networking site.
While a version of Google Plus built for corporate customers will still exist, Google has announced that it plans to discontinue the consumer version of the site in August of 2019.
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