Search engine giant Google’s social networking platform Google+ will soon be shut down after the company reported a bug that left a part of users’ private data exposed.
The glitch allowed information that the user thought was private but was, in fact, accessible to third parties. Google said that nearly 500,000 users were impacted by the bug but emphasized that there was no evidence that the data had been misused.
“We found no evidence that any developer was aware of this bug, or abusing the API, and we found no evidence that any Profile data was misused,” Google Fellow and Vice President of Engineering Ben Smith wrote in a blog post.
The announcement comes amidst reports that Google was aware of the problem since March 2018 but failed to report it, fearing “regulatory interest”.
“Our Privacy & Data Protection Office reviewed this issue, looking at the type of data involved, whether we could accurately identify the users to inform, whether there was any evidence of misuse, and whether there were any actions a developer or user could take in response. None of these thresholds were met in this instance,” Smith said.
For now, the company said that it will discontinue Google+ for consumers since it had failed to generate interest. Google+ was launched in 2011 to compete with social network Facebook but was not able to match its popularity.
“The consumer version of Google+ currently has low usage and engagement: 90% of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds,” said Smith.
Social networking applications are increasingly coming under fire after a series of incidents revealed security lapses that compromised users’ privacy.
Recently Facebook was the spotlight after reports emerged that it allowed one of the apps to mine 87 million users’ data. This was later used to skew the public opinion in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.
Such incidents have led to authorities tightening data protection rules with Europe introducing the new GDPR regulations.