Google Plus will be finally put out of its misery amidst multiple privacy concerns and extremely low user numbers.
Yeah, Google Plus, or Google+. That thing you kind of know exists but have never, ever used is shutting down.
On the surface, it’s not an announcement likely to cause any tears or even make you bat an eye. Nobody liked the bloody thing in the first place. But upon closer inspection, we should all be concerned.
For years, serious security vulnerabilities in Google Plus exposed private data such as full names, places lived, and email addresses from hundreds of thousands of users.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Google knew of the issue and decided to keep the whole thing in secret in fear of regulatory scrutiny and public backlash.
The WSJ obtained documents that reveal Google CEO Sundar Pichai was particularly wary of disclosing any details of the bug, noting that it could result in the company “coming into the spotlight alongside or even instead of Facebook despite having stayed under the radar throughout the Cambridge Analytica scandal”.
An internal company memo observed that although there wasn’t any real evidence that developers were aware of the vulnerability, and there’s no proof that any third party took advantage of it, there isn’t really any way to know for sure if any misuse took place.
Google responded in a blog post on Tuesday, saying they launched “Project Strobe” at the beginning of 2018. The amusingly named initiative may sound like something straight out of a Bond movie but is actually an internal audit to review third-party developer access to Google accounts and Android device data.
Their assessment found no evidence that any of the developers behind the 400+ apps that used the API were even aware of the vulnerability.
Unsurprisingly, Google also found no one really uses the service, with 90 per cent of Google Plus user sessions lasting less than five seconds.
In response to all of this mess, the tech giant decided to shut down the consumer version of Google Plus for good. The company will dismantle it over the course of 10 months to give users some time to transition out of the service. The whole thing will disappear completely by August of next year, but Google is planning on launching a revamped version designed specifically for corporate use.
In early September, Google CEO Sundar Pichai controversially declined an invitation from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to a hearing that touched on the thorny topic of the 2016 election and the role companies like Google played in the result.
Pichai will testify before the House Judiciary Committee next month to discuss user privacy and Google’s “Dragonfly” project in China.