Al­pha­bet to shut Google+ af­ter data breach

500,000 users could have been ex­posed to out­side de­vel­op­ers

Global Times US Edition - - WORLD -

Al­pha­bet Inc’s Google will shut down the con­sumer ver­sion of its failed so­cial net­work Google+ and tighten its data shar­ing poli­cies af­ter an­nounc­ing Mon­day that pri­vate pro­file data of at least 500,000 users may have been ex­posed to hun­dreds of ex­ter­nal de­vel­op­ers.

The is­sue was dis­cov­ered and patched in March as part of a re­view of how Google shares data with other ap­pli­ca­tions, Google said in a blog post. No de­vel­oper ex­ploited the vul­ner­a­bil­ity or mis­used data, the re­view found.

Shares of its par­ent com­pany Al­pha­bet closed down 1 per­cent at $1,155.92 fol­low­ing the lat­est in a run of pri­vacy is­sues to hit big US tech com­pa­nies.

The Wall Street Jour­nal re­ported ear­lier that Google opted not to dis­close the se­cu­rity is­sue due to fears of reg­u­la­tory scru­tiny, cit­ing un­named sources and a memo pre­pared by Google’s le­gal and pol­icy staff for se­nior ex­ec­u­tives.

Google feared dis­clo­sure would in­vite com­par­i­son to Face­book Inc’s leak of user in­for­ma­tion to data firm Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica, the Jour­nal re­ported, ad­ding that Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Sun­dar Pichai had been briefed on the is­sue. Google de­clined to com­ment beyond its blog post.

Google said on Mon­day none of the thresh­olds it re­quires to dis­close a breach were met af­ter re­view­ing the type of data in­volved, whether it could iden­tify the users to in­form, es­tab­lish any ev­i­dence of mis­use, and whether there were any ac­tions a de­vel­oper or user could take to pro­tect them­selves.

Se­cu­rity and pri­vacy ex­perts and fi­nan­cial an­a­lysts ques­tioned the de­ci­sion.

“Users have the right to be no­ti­fied if their in­for­ma­tion could have been com­pro­mised,” said Ja­cob Lehmann, manag­ing di­rec­tor at le­gal firm Fried­man CyZen. “This is a di­rect re­sult of the scru­tiny that Face­book dealt with re­gard­ing the Cam­bridge An­a­lyt­ica scan­dal.”

Google+ launched in 2011 as the ad­ver­tis­ing gi­ant grew more con­cerned about com­pe­ti­tion from Face­book, which could pin­point ads to users based on data they had shared about their friends, likes and on­line ac­tiv­ity.

Google+ copied Face­book with sta­tus up­dates and news feeds and let peo­ple or­ga­nize their groups of friends into what it calls “cir­cles.”

But Google+ and the com­pany’s other ex­per­i­ments with so­cial me­dia strug­gled to win over users be­cause of com­pli­cated fea­tures and pri­vacy mishaps.

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