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Google is Shutting Down Google+, Admits Low Consumer Adoption

09 October 2018
Google is Shutting Down Google+, Admits Low Consumer Adoption

Our review showed that Google+ is better suited as an enterprise product where co-workers can engage in internal discussions on a secure corporate social network. This privacy breach, in addition to dwindling user numbers and engagement, has prompted the search giant to shutter the consumer side of Google+.

As part of an audit of APIs, Google also discovered that Google+ had also been permitting developers to obtain data from users who never wanted it to be shared publicly - but a bug in the API meant they could collect data even if it was explicitly marked non-public through Google's privacy settings. The company also said that personal information belonging to as many as 500,000 Google+ users was exposed. The company is henceforth shutting down Google+ to consumers.

"The consumer version of Google+ now has low usage and engagement: 90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds", the company said.

The affected data was limited to static, optional Google+ Profile fields including name, email address, occupation, gender and age.

" The review did highlight the significant challenges in creating and maintaining a successful Google+ that meets consumers' expectations", the company said. Google already had millions (if not billions) of accounts using its services, so turning it into a social media service should have been pretty easy. Ben Smith, Google's VP of Engineering, disclosed more information about the security issue, and how it was discovered.

This issue has existed 2015 until Google found out about it in March 2018 and made a decision to fix it. Google then had a choice to inform its users but chose not to because it wasn't legally required to and secondly, because it would draw regulatory attention towards itself.

After The Journal's story was published, Google announced it had shuttered Google+ to the public. Over the coming months, we will provide consumers with additional information, including ways they can download and migrate their data. Giving an app permission to all of this should not be taken lightly. They're also limiting app's access to your Gmail account moving forward, so only apps that "directly enhance" email functionality (like email clients and backup services) will be able to access your Gmail messages.

Google's new policy and Gmail API access rules won't safeguard Gmail users from having their inboxes pilfered for data, but it will make it harder for an app to gain access to such data in the first place.

Google did not specify how long the software flaw existed, or why it waited to announce it. So, for example, your default messaging app will have access to SMS permissions, and the default dialer can access Call Logs.

Android data access is being restricted to app developers.