Google has said that it found a software glitch in its Google+ social network in March 2018 that could have exposed the personal data of as many as half a million users, but decided not to tell the public until months later.
Google found the flaw in March during an extensive privacy and security review according to Ben Smith, Google vice president of engineering. An internal committee decided not to disclose the potential breach of Google+ because there wasn’t evidence of any misuse of the exposed data, which included names, email addresses, ages and occupations. The bug was immediately fixed at the time, he said.
The Federal Trade Commission, as the nation’s chief privacy watchdog, has the authority to investigate data breaches. The FTC can fine companies when they violate terms of a consent decree.
Google has said it plans to shut down Google+ for consumers (but leave it running for businesses) and introduce new privacy tools restricting how developers can use information on products ranging from email to file storage.
Google+ was never anywhere near as successful as Facebook and social media networks. Even so, many users still have a profile that has personal information on it. Google will shut it down over the coming months for consumers, but keep the version built for businesses open and operating.
The other changes Google is making include requiring apps to ask separately for each type of information they want from a user, such as access to calendars or address books. On Gmail, Google’s ubiquitous email service, only apps that improve email functionality will be allowed to request access.
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