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Google+ To Shut Down For Consumers As The Company Gets A Taste Of Breach Streak After FB and Uber, Google Is Facing Flak For Compromising User Security

By Gajendra Puri Goswami

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2018 seems to be the year of data breaches. After Facebook's Cambridge analytical scandal and India's Aadhar fiasco, Google is shutting down its social network service Google+ amid reports of security threats. The tech giant has announced that it has decided to shut down Google+ for consumer usage over the next ten months. Google stated in its announcement that after facing significant challenges in creating and maintaining a successful Google+ product that could meet consumer expectations, the company found a bug that granted developers with user's profile data, and the public information of their friends, to Google+ apps. As a result of these findings, the company has decided to discontinue the social network service for consumer usage.

How Did The Issue Come To Light?

In a detailed blog post highlighting the events that culminated into the decision Google stated, "At the beginning of the year, we started an effort called Project Strobe- a root and branch review of third-party developer access to Google accounts and Android device data and of our philosophy around app's data access. This project at the operation of our privacy controls, platforms where users were not engaging in our APIs because of concerns around data privacy, areas where developers may have granted overly board access, and other areas in which our policies should be tightened."

The company further stated that in a review conducted under the Project Strobe it found out a bug in one of Google+ Peoples API that allowed apps to gain access to profile fields that were shared with the user, but not marked as public. Google claims that this data is limited to the users' profile fields like name, email, occupation, gender, age and does not include any other data that the user might have posted or connected to Google+ or any other services like Google+ posts, messages, phone numbers, Google account data or G Suite data.

Did Google Deliberately Compromise User Data?

Meanwhile, a report by The Wall Street Journal claims that the security issue was present for more than two years and the company knew about it, yet it chose to do nothing. Albeit Google has claimed that a detailed analysis of the bug, before fixing it, showed no evidence that any developer was aware of the bug's existence or may have abused the API for users' personal info, the revelation comes as an alarming shock to online users who confide in the company with intimate details about their personal lives on a daily basis. Even though Google+ is not exactly socially relevant now and its user interaction remains very limited, it may have exposed a large mass of its unbeknownst users susceptible to security threats and violated their privacy.

What Lies Ahead?

While Google has acknowledged that hardly anyone is still using Google+, it is still relevant as an enterprise product within companies where co-workers engage in internal discussions. Thus, over the next ten months, the company will facilitate a smooth transition of Google+ to switch from a social network to a strictly corporate messaging device. The company will roll out new features built for business purposes and give users an opportunity to download and migrate their existing data. It has already started introducing finer controls for users to manage permissions that third-party services seek from their Google account. Going ahead, users will have to grant individual permissions to any app that seeks any information from their Google account. Similarly, Google will also limit Android's ability to receive information related to call logs and text messages. With this, Google+'s long and disastrous journey as a social networking service comes to an end; hopefully, with little or no repercussions for its users.

Gajendra Puri Goswami

Features Writer

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