The best social network you probably never used is shutting down. After security problems that Google apparently didn’t report publicly, Google+ is closing down inAugust, 2019.
The private data of half a million of Google+ users was exposed in early 2018, but the company never reported it at the time. According to the Wall Street Journal, the failure to report was prompted by fear over regulatory scrutiny and damage to the company’s reputation.
Google said it decided not to make the problems public because there wasn’t any evidence that the data had been misused. In this case, it was not a data breach or hack, but rather a bug that would allow data to be exposed.
“We found no evidence that any developer was aware of this bug, or abusing the API, and we found no evidence that any Profile data was misused,” said Ben Smith, Google Fellow and VP of Engineering in a blog post.
In making its decision to shut down Google+, the company also said that the platform had low usage and low engagement levels: 90% of its users spend just 5 seconds per session on the social media platform. Considering the low usage levels, according to Google, engineers recommended it wasn’t worth the effort to continue to maintain the product.
In July, the European Union hit Google with a $4.9 billion dollar fine for antitrust violations. EU regulators are looking at this latest security breach, including Ireland’s data protection regulators.
GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) laws in the EU require companies to notify regulators of a data leak within 72 hours of discovery. Companies can face massive fines for failing to comply. In this case, Google said the problem occurred prior to GDPR going into the effect.
There is no federal law in the U.S. requiring companies to disclose security breaches, but privacy laws passed in California (going into effect in 2020) would allow consumers to sue for up to $750 for each violation. That would equate to a $350 million liability in this case if the law were in effect now.
- Lots of U.S. companies are not ready for new data protection policies
- California just passed one of the toughest data privacy laws in the country
- California passes new privacy law with greater consumer controls
It figures that the company is shutting down Google+ now that I’ve finally figured out how to use the platform efficiently and grown a following there. If you want to check out my Google+ page before they shut it down, click here.