Google+ has suffered another data leak, and Google has decided to shut down the consumer version of the social network four months earlier than it originally planned. Google+ will now close to consumers in April, rather than August. Additionally, API access to the network will shut down within the next 90 days.
According to Google, the new vulnerability impacted 52.5 million users, who could have had profile information like their name, email address, occupation and age exposed to developers, even if their account was set to private. Apps could also access profile data that had been shared with a specific user, but was not shared publicly.
In October, a similar Google+ vulnerability was revealed to have exposed private user data to developers for as long as three years. The bug was first discovered in March, but not publicly disclosed until October, resulting in significant transparency concerns. In response, Google announced plans to shut down the consumer version of Google+, which had long struggled to attract users.
This time around, Google says it discovered the leak on its own and it was live for just six days — between November 7th and November 13th. After criticism from privacy officials over its lack of immediate disclosure regarding the previous Google+ bug, Google says it’s announcing this leak’s existence as a matter of transparency.
“With the discovery of this new bug, we have decided to expedite the shut-down of all Google+ APIs; this will occur within the next 90 days. In addition, we have also decided to accelerate the sunsetting of consumer Google+ from August 2019 to April 2019. While we recognize there are implications for developers, we want to ensure the protection of our users.
Google discovered the bug as part of its standard testing procedure and says there is “no evidence that the app developers that inadvertently had this access for six days were aware of it or misused.”
“We understand that our ability to build reliable products that protect your data drives user trust,” David Thacker, Google’s vice president of project management, wrote in the post. “We have always taken this seriously, and we continue to invest in our privacy programs.”