Google is closing its troubled Google Plus social network following the discovery of a software glitch this past spring that may have exposed user information of up to 500,000 customers between 2015 and 2018, the company said Monday.
Ben Smith, Google’s vice president of engineering, confirmed in a blog post the company had detected a “bug” in March that impacted the profiles of as many as 500,000 Google Plus users. Google said it immediately fixed the security flaw and had not uncovered evidence that the information was mishandled by any of hundreds of third-party developers that may have had access to the user data.
Despite the security flaw, Google executives opted not to disclose the problem at the time because they feared trouble from regulators after the intense criticism encountered by Facebook over its privacy woes, according to the Wall Street Journal. Google hoped to avoid comparisons to Facebook’s leak of user information to Cambridge Analytica, the data firm accused of improperly using information on 87 million Facebook users on behalf of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, the Journal said.
The Google Plus data potentially exposed includes names, email addresses, occupations, dates of birth, genders and profile photos. In addition, 438 third-party applications may have used the application programming interface, or API, that allowed possible access to the data, according to Google.
The company will wind down the Google Plus network during a 10-month period expected to be done by the end of next August, Smith wrote in his post. He also vowed additional security steps would result in the wake of the incident.