Google+: Why is it shutting down?

Google has been forced to shut down its social media website ‘Google+’ after it was revealed that the company suffered a large data breach, exposing hundreds of thousands of private user data to third-party developers.

In what is being described as Google’s “Cambridge Analytica” moment, a security flaw gave app developers access to users’ profile data from 2015 until March 2018, when Google discovered the threat and patched it without informing anyone.

So, what happened?

When a user gave permission to an app to access their public profile data on the social networking site, the bug also let developers pull their and their friends’ non-public profile fields. A combined 496,951 user names, email addresses, birth dates, gender data, profile photos, occupation and relationship status information were potentially exposed as a result. Google has publicly stated that there is no evidence of data misuse from the 438 apps that could have had access.

A leaked internal memo has suggested that Google chose not to inform the ICO or publicly disclose the breach in case it would lead to bad publicity to coincide with the Facebook and the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

In response to the breach, Google has already begun reforming its privacy controls and features. In Gmail for instance, it is stopping third-party

developers from accessing Android phone SMS data, call logs and contact information. It’s also changing its Account Permissions system to ask the user to confirm each type of access an app is granted individually rather than all at once.

Google+ is now being slowly shut down, with all accounts expected to be closed within a year. If you’re worried about your data however, we’d advise you to review the permissions you have given apps that are connected to your Google+ account.