Google to close Google+ social networking site

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Google said it found a "software glitch" in its Google+ social network in March that could have exposed the personal data of as many as half a million users, but decided not to tell the public until Monday (Tuesday NZT).

Google opted not to disclose the issue partly due to fears of regulatory scrutiny, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier, citing unnamed sources and internal documents. Strobe found a sizeable flaw in Google+' APIs, meaning that malicious apps could extract data from profiles, such as name, email addresses, occupation, gender and age.

Google+ will come to an end for consumers next August, but business users will still be able to use the service as an internal corporate social network.

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Google also announced that, in addition to shutting down Google+, it's revamping its account permissions to allow users to pick and choose which data they share with third-party apps.

Google says that there was no evidence that the information was misused, but that a total of 438 apps had access.

While Google says there is no clear misuse of profile data that occurred as a result of this breach, MacMillan of the Journal says it raises questions about the company's commitment to user privacy.

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Google claims that it "discovered and immediately patched" the bug in March 2018, but the flaw has existed since 2015. But the delay until October in revealing it could reignite long-standing complaints from federal and state lawmakers that tech giants such as Google are reckless with user privacy and not forthcoming enough when breaches and other incidents happen.

Google+ may not be the biggest social network - far from it, according to Google - but there are some folks out there that use it, so the news of its shutdown is a bit disappointing for them. An internal Google memo cited by the newspaper showed that executives were anxious about the damage the news would do to Google's reputation at a time when Facebook was already under fire for mishandling customer data in the Cambridge Analytica affair.

Google's handling of the situation is bound to make things more complicated for Pichai at a time when Facebook is taking renewed heat for another breach that may have affected at least 50 million accounts, according to computer-security experts.

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When you hit that, Google will let you know what you're about to do and give you options to get more details about the implications of deleting your account. "Ultimately it will be up to users to proactively monitor how their data is used and what applications have access to that data by using strong passwords and carefully reviewing access requests prior to using an app like Google+", she added.