Google exposed user data, feared repercussions of disclosing to public

Oct 09, 2018, 02:36
Google exposed user data, feared repercussions of disclosing to public

Google opted not to disclose the issue partly due to fears of regulatory scrutiny, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed sources and internal documents.

Google has finally closed its social network Google+ after announcing data from up to 500,000 users may have been exposed by a bug that was present for more than two years.

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According to the WSJ, Google chose not to divulge the data breach because "the incident would likely trigger "immediate regulatory interest" and invite comparisons to Facebook's leak of user information to data firm Cambridge Analytica".

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In the announcement, Google also announced raft of new security features for Android, Gmail and other Google platforms that it has taken as a result of the bug. "We will share more information in the coming days".

The company hopes these new API access rules will curb the practice of developing simplistic Gmail add-ons that use intrusive permissions to perform machine analysis on emails' texts, harvest user data for ad targeting, track the success of email campaigns, or other nefarious purposes.

Apparently trying to play down the significance of the matter, Google says that Google+ has not proved particularly popular or successful: "it has not achieved broad consumer or developer adoption, and has seen limited user interaction with apps". Google+ users could even allow a third-party app to access the public information of friends.

We have many enterprise customers who are finding great value in using Google+ within their companies.

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To make the closure of the service as seamless as possible, Google says it'll implement a "wind-down" period over the next 10 months with the goal to have everyone off Google+ and officially pull the plug by the end of August 2019.

While no evidence was found that indicates this bug was ever misused, it was determined that the complexity of protecting and operating a social network like Google+ was not a worthwhile endeavor when so few users actually used the service for any length of time. "None of these thresholds were met in this instance", wrote Ben Smith, a Google vice president of engineering. On Android, the contacts API will no longer include access to call log and SMS data unless you set the requesting app as your default.

A spokeswoman for Google said that whenever user data may have been affected it determines whether to tell people based on a number of criteria.

Google also said, more broadly, that it was going to strengthen consumer control over data shared with app developers.

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