Google exposed personal data of nearly 500,000 and didn't disclose it

The Google app logo is seen on a smartphone in this illustration

The Wall Street Journal reported that Google executives opted against notifying users earlier because of concerns it would catch the attention of regulators and draw comparisons to a data privacy scandal at Facebook.

Google+ is widely seen as one of Google's biggest failures, the WSJ says. According to their reporting, an internal committee at Google decided not to disclose the bug even though they were not 100% sure that it was not abused.

The Google+ data breach was discovered in March of this year during an audit of the company's APIs, conducted by a privacy task force codenamed Project Strobe. Google will announce new Enterprise-focused products for Google+ in the near future.

Google came under criticism for refusing to send a top executive to a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on 5 September about efforts to counteract foreign influence in U.S. elections and political discourse. This exploit was patched in the Spring, but Google isn't taking any more chances and is upping the ante on its API's as well as protecting its customers data. The disclosure would also invite "immediate regulatory interest", the memo said. Google and Apple are both now giving users more control over their data and the ability to limit what third parties can access.

The consumer version was found to have low usage and engagement, with 90 percent of Google+ user sessions lasting fewer than five seconds, according to the firm.

Given the potential for abuse, and the fact that nearly no one is using Google+, Alphabet opted to take the path of least resistance and yank the doddering network off life support.

Google will take the next 10 months to kill off G+ for consumers, finishing it off by August of 2019. None of these thresholds [was] met in this instance. The company said however, that the information that was accessible consisted of a user's name, email address, occupation, gender and age. Gmail third-party apps that have full access over a Gmail user's data but only require "send capabilities" will need to re-scope their permissions appropriately because they won't be allowed to read users' emails starting next year. However, Google contends that there's no evidence that profile data was misused.

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.

Play Store apps will no longer be allowed to access text message and call logs unless they are the default calling or texting app on a user's device or have an exception from Google. He said that given the legal issues Facebook faces over its Cambridge Analytica cover-up, it's not surprising Google tried to keep the leak out of the public eye.

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