Google+, Google’s social network, to shut down after bug exposes users’ data

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The security breach was a bug that potentially gave developers access to personal profile information of more than half a million user accounts, though Google said it sound no evidence that any developers had abused the bug.

Some of that qualifies as legally protected personally identifiable information, and its exposure could trigger scrutiny from federal and state regulators, including some who have probed Google before on similar issues.

In the post, Google announced it was closing down the service after the Wall Street Journal revealed the company had known about the bug, which affected all Google+ users, since March this year.

Upon discovering the bug, Google patched it, but opted not to disclose it to the public out of fear of regulatory pressure and unfavorable comparisons to Facebook's Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal.

Google's attempt at a social network was never particularly popular - and became even less so when it admitted that 500,000 users may have had their data exposed. As for why it's being shut down, Google says that Google+ has "low usage and engagement", with 90 percent of G+ user sessions lasting less than five seconds. It also promises to provide consumers with more information, including options for downloading and migrating data, over the coming months. March was when a software bug was fixed that allowed third-party developers to access personal data.

Meanwhile, Google planned to add new workplace-oriented features to enhance the appeal of Google+ as a "secure corporate social network" to be used inside business operations.

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That fiasco had raised questions about the privacy practices of other big tech firms, including Google.

According to the Journal, Google's legal and policy team warned senior executives at the company that disclosing the security flaw could lead to "immediate regulatory interest".

Google Plus copied Facebook with status updates and news feeds and let people organize their groups of friends into what it calls "circles".

"The review did highlight the significant challenges in creating and maintaining a successful Google+ that meets consumers' expectations", Ben Smith, vice president of engineering, wrote in a blog post.

To crack down on potential misuse data, Google will only allow third-party Gmail apps that directly involve email functionality, such as email clients, backup services, mail-merge services, and expense tracking.

Google+ launched with much fanfare in 2011, positioned as the search giant's answer to Facebook. "None of these thresholds were met in this instance", he said. Somehow, the intimate data of the first user would be included in the collection profile.

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