Google kept quiet for more than six months after its discovery of a bug that put at risk the personal data of hundreds of thousands of Google+ users, the company said Monday, a delay that could spark a new round of regulatory scrutiny. In turn, this meant that nearly 500,000 users' names, email addresses, dates of birth, gender, location, occupation, and relationship status were made available to developers, all without their knowledge.
Google was mired in its very own privacy scandal on Monday when The Wall Street Journal revealed that it exposed personal profile data of around 500,000 Google+ users - and then chose to not let people know.
The company said it had considered whether or not it could accurately identify which users to inform, whether there was any evidence of misuse and whether there were any actions a developer or user could take in response.
The Google+ vulnerability was discovered at a time that nearly coincided with the notorious privacy leakage scandal of the world's largest social media network Facebook, which has been widely criticized for its failure to protect its users' private data.
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Google is at the centre of controversy this morning over a report of a massive user data breach that occurred a year ago, with the result that they will be introducing finer grain controls to limit access to user data on the web and Android - and also shutdown Google+ for consumers.
The company said it will give consumers more control over what data apps can access.
Interestingly, the aforementioned WSJ report says that Google's legal and policy staff sent a memo to senior executives warning that disclosing the bug would probably result in "immediate regulatory interest".
Google does not yet have a lead EU Supervisory authority, as the breach apparently happened before the EU's new privacy law, the General Data Protection Regulation, was implemented. This comes from the Wall Street Journal who cited unnamed sources and internal documents.
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Facebook's chief operating officer and Twitter's chief executive testified at the hearing, where an empty chair was pointedly left for Google after the committee rejected Google's top lawyer as a witness. The company couldn't determine whether any Google+ information had actually been accessed through this software bug.
As many as 438 outside apps may have connected with the flawed software.
Here's some sudden and disappointing news for all five of you who use Google+. The company has found no evidence that Profile data was misused.
On Android, Google will limit apps ability to receive users call logs and short messaging service (SMS) data.
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Despite that, the company plans to keep Google+ operational as an enterprise product, allowing companies to use it as an internal communication platform for employees.