Google+ social media platform to be killed following revelations of privacy flaw

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Google said Monday it is shutting down the long ailing social network Google+ for consumer use amid new scrutiny of the company for reportedly failing to publicly disclose a security bug affecting hundreds of thousands of accounts on the service.

But in a blog post today, Ben Smith, Google Fellow and Vice President of Engineering, said the bug allowed third-party apps to also gain access to users' data that was marked private, not just the public data the apps would have normally been allowed to see. In the aftermath of what appears to have been a major security flaw within Google+, the company ended up not disclosing the breach of information to its users. The company noted that information like Google+ posts, messages and G Suite content weren't included in the exposure.

Google announced Monday it is shutting down the consumer version of its online social network after fixing a bug exposing private data in as many as 500,000 accounts.

When Google+ launched in 2011, it was envisioned as a possible rival to Facebook, The Associated Press reported. According to an internal memo viewed by the Wall Street Journal, Google feared disclosing the issue would be detrimental to its reputation and draw unwanted regulatory attention.

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Google said it found no evidence of data misuse. Also in recent weeks, Google has been strongly criticized about building a search engine that would censor information as part of a possible-entry into China. Indeed, "90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds".

Amid revelations of another security snafu, Google has made a decision to sunset the consumer version of Google+ over the next year. The bug has reportedly existed since 2015, and Google does not know if the information has been used.

A Google spokesperson cited "significant challenges in creating and maintaining a successful Google+ that meets consumers' expectations" along with "very low usage" as the reasons for the move.

In addition, Google Play will limit which apps are allowed to ask for permission to access a user's phone and SMS data.

In addition to the sunsetting of Google+, Project Strobe brings in new, more granular controls over the data Android and Gmail users share with apps.