Google will close down the consumer version of its social network, Google+ and intensify its data sharing policies.
This comes just after its announcement on Monday that private profile data of not less than 500,000 users may have been exposed to hundreds of external developers. Google said it had discovered and patched the leak in March this year and had no evidence of misuse of user data or that any developer was aware or had exploited the vulnerability.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier that Google had opted not to disclose the issue with its Application Program Interfaces (API) partly due to fears of regulatory scrutiny, citing unnamed sources and internal documents.
Google said it had reviewed the issue, looking at the type of data involved, whether it 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.
Google’s vague 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.
“None of these thresholds were met in this instance…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.” The blog post said.
Under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), if personal data is breached, a company needs to inform a supervisory authority within 72 hours, unless the breach is unlikely to result in a risk to the rights and freedom of users.
Google said a software glitch in the social site gave outside developers’ potential access to private Google+ profile data between a major redesign in 2015 and March 2018, when internal investigators discovered and fixed the issue. The affected data was limited to static, optional Google+ Profile fields including name, email address, occupation, gender and age.