Google+ to shut down early after privacy flaw affects over 50m users


Service to be closed four months earlier than expected in light of lapse that exposed names, email addresses and other information

Associated Press

Google is still having trouble protecting the personal information on its Google+ service, prodding the company to accelerate its plans to shut down a little-used social network created to compete against Facebook.

A privacy flaw that inadvertently exposed the names, email addresses, ages and other personal information of 52.5 million Google+ users last month convinced Google to close the service in April instead of August, as previously announced. Google revealed the new closure date and its latest privacy lapse in a Monday blogpost.

It is the second time in two months that Google has disclosed the existence of a problem that enabled unauthorized access to Google+ profiles. In October, the company acknowledged finding a privacy flaw affecting 500,000 users that it waited more than six months to disclose.

Google moved more quickly to own up to the most recent privacy problem on Google+. This time around, the names, email addresses, ages and other personal information of the affected users were exposed for six days in November before it was fixed. No financial information or passwords were visible to intruders, according to Google. The company also said it has not seen evidence indicating that unauthorized users who accessed Google+ through the inadvertent peephole have misused any of the personal information.

Even if the latest privacy gaffe didn’t cause any major damage, it nevertheless marks another embarrassing incident for Google.

Like Facebook, Google makes most of its money by selling ads that draw upon what the company learns about the interests, habits and locations of people while they’re using its free services.

Google’s privacy issues on Google+ are likely to be a topic that US lawmakers delve into Tuesday, when CEO Sundar Pichai is scheduled to appear before a House committee. Some members of Congress are now mulling whether tougher regulations to curb the power of Google, Facebook and other technology companies are needed in addition demanding tighter controls over digital privacy.

Facebook has had even more trouble guarding the personal information that it scoops up on its social networking service, which now has more than 2.2 billion users. The most glaring breakdown emerged in March when Facebook acknowledged the personal information of as many as 87 million of its users had been shared with Cambridge Analytica, a data mining firm affiliated with Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.



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