Published: Thu, October 11, 2018
Technology | By Lionel Gonzales

Alphabet shuts Google Plus service after 500,000 users data breach

Alphabet shuts Google Plus service after 500,000 users data breach

Google came forward about the bug, which was discovered back in March and was active between 2015 and 2018, on October 8, after a Wall Street Journal investigation cited anonymous sources who said that the company didn't disclose the problem then partly to avoid attracting regulatory scrutiny. The decision stems from Project Strobe, an internal effort started earlier this year with the goal of reviewing third-party developer access to Android and Google Account data.

"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 said. "None of these thresholds were met here".

News of the security woes at Google Plus - and the company's failure to disclose them in a timely manner - sent shares of Alphabet were down $9.35, or 0.

According to the paper, the memo said that while Google could not find evidence that the exposed data had been misused, it also could not prove that misuse did not happen.

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Project Strobe will also lead to Google account holders getting more fine-grained controls over the data they share with apps, which now have overly broad access to user information, Google said.

So a group of the company's executives ruled that the firm should stay quiet about the flaw, and reportedly informed Sundar Pichai, Google's CEO, of their decision. Still, Facebook's Cambridge Analytica breach was revealed in March, and that didn't prevent a £500,000 ($US652,000) fine by Britain's Information Commissioner's Office. The consumer version of Google+ now has low usage and engagement: "90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds". The company was the target of a massive class action lawsuit in the United Kingdom after 4 million users had their personal data collected and allegedly used for targeted advertising. Also in recent weeks, Google has been strongly criticized about building a search engine that would censor information as part of a possible-entry into China.

In the wake of the publishing of the Journal's story, Google announced late Monday morning that it had closed down the social networking service for consumers.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It's also limiting said apps' ability to access private data outside of specific use cases. As you can see from the above screenshots, instead of just offering a master "Allow" button that gives the third-party access to various items, the new permission box will be more granular, details each data type at length, and provide users with the ability to allow or deny each thing.

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