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18th of November 2018

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Google+ Will Shut Down in 2019 After Exposing User Data - ExtremeTech

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Google has been trying to gain a foothold in social networking for years, going all the way back to the tragically flawed Google Buzz in 2010. A year later, it launched Google+ with the aim of taking on Facebook. Now, the dream is over. Following a security audit and reassessment of the social network’s performance, Google has opted to shut down Google+ in 2019.

According to Google’s VP of engineering Ben Smith, the company undertook a security and privacy audit earlier this year called Project Strobe. Specifically, Google started looking at its API endpoints over concern developers could abuse them. Facebook’s recent difficulties highlighted that possibility, of course. While Facebook was able to power through its security crisis because it’s so huge, Google+ was barely hanging on before Google began its investigation.

Google discovered a problem with the Google+ People API that could allow third-party developers to scrape optional profile information made available to your friends like name, email, occupation, and gender. Google says it does not see evidence that developers made use of the bug before it was patched back in March, but it can’t be 100 percent certain.

Because Google doesn’t keep API log data on G+, it can’t confirm how many users were vulnerable, but it thinks the number is north of 500,000. It’s possible you have a Google+ page with personal data on it and simply forgot about it. Google pushed its social platform very hard for several years, going so far as to integrate its comments with YouTube and make web logins part of G+. And for what? Google’s examination of G+ in the wake of the security mess forced it to confront some hard truths. For example, 90 percent of G+ sessions latest less than five seconds.

Google+ usage among consumers is so abysmal that it’s not worth the headache of revamping its security model. So, Google is shutting it down consumer access to G+. The service will wind down slowly over the next 10 months, but it plans to reformulate G+ as a business tool of some sort. The security flaw feels more like an excuse to kill a product that has underperformed for years. 

While the Google+ API was the biggest concern, Google says it is also making changes to several other products. Google account permissions will have more granular controls for each permission an app requests (see above). Developers will also have more limited access to Gmail data going forward. 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.

Now read: Apple Reportedly Demands $9B From Google for iOS Default Search, Google Is Pulling the Plug on Inbox in March 2019, and Google’s Chinese Search Engine Reportedly Links Results to Phone Numbers

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