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It’s The End of the Road for Google+

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Google’s long-struggling answer to Facebook and LinkedIn’s giant social network, Google+, is set to shut down as announced on 8th October.

Google Plus, often the butt of jokes in the tech market, launched in 2011 and posed as a competitor against the rising social platforms of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The prospect of a social platform within the search giant’s suite of products was daunting and seemed useful in theory: if it was possible to bring together your inbox, your contacts, and your videos from YouTube and your photos from Picasa, then why not enable sharing with your entire network?

As a part of Google, Google+ was able to tie in a strong SEO capability for publishers. But unfortunately, Google+ never took off. Even now, after seven years, Google Plus hasn’t reached where it wanted to.

Data Breach

The announcement of Google+ shutting down comes after it was made public that there has been a breach of data for 500,000 of their users and might have exposed that data to 3rd party developers. This data breach was revealed during Google’s Project Strobe analysis.

Project Strobe

Project Strobe is a root-and-branch review of the access to Google account and Android device data that is given to 3rd party developers. In the blog posted by Google about the Project Strobe, various information come to light. One point speaks about Gmail and how from now on, Google will only permit those applications that directly enhance email functionality and only those applications will gain access to the data.

This raises the question: Was the user data that are connected and stored in Gmail being misused by apps so far?

Project Strobe helped in finding the bug that could have potentially affected Google+ user accounts. As Google+ is highly unpopular, there is not much personal data on the accounts but millions of people have been using the API in order to log in to other devices over the years.

The bug was caught and resolved in March of 2018 but according to a statement given by Google, the bug could have been there since the launch of Google+ which would mean that the bug remained live in the system for almost 7 years.

Non-Disclosure

As said by the Wall Street Journal report, Google opted out of disclosing the API data breach issue due to the fear of regulatory scrutiny, especially since the environment was rife with Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data breach fiasco. A Google spokesperson refuted this statement and instead said that their Data Protection team had informed them that there was no need for consumers to be informed as no ‘misuse’ per se had occurred.

Consistent with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), if personal data is breached, a supervisory authority needs to be informed by the company within 72 hours, unless the breach is not likely to result in a risk to the rights and freedom of users. 

According to their statement, their Privacy and Data Protection Office reviewed this data breach issue, the type of data involved, whether they could accurately identify the user profiles that were affected, whether there was any evidence of misuse, and if there were any actions a developer or user could respond with.

Data Security

Every year, Google sends millions of notifications to users regarding privacy and security bugs and issues. They go beyond their legal requirements whenever they find out about any data breaches and even apply several criteria that focus on their users in order to determine whether notice needs to be provided.

Google+ Exit

In order to offer people a full opportunity to transition, Google will be implementing a wind-down that will spread across a 10-month period, and is slated for completion by the end of August 2019. In their statement they mentioned that over the coming months, they will be providing consumers with additional information, which will include ways they can download and migrate their data.

Google+ Enterprise

Nevertheless, they have many enterprise customers who find great value in using Google+ within their companies. Their review showed that Google+ is better suited as an enterprise product, to aid co-workers in engaging in internal discussions over a secure corporate social network. Customers using it as an enterprise product will be able to set common access rules, and use central controls for their entire organization. They’ve decided to put their focus on their enterprise efforts and will be launching new features that are purpose-built for businesses. More on this in the coming days.  

Finally

Google’s goal has always been to support a wide range of useful apps, while continuing to ensure that everyone remains confident about the security of their data. By giving more explicit rules to developers, and helping users control their data, Google can ensure that they keep doing just that.

After the Facebook data breach, Google+ data breach and even Google’s non-disclosure, users need to rethink the faith they put into the social networking sites they register at.

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