According to the news report by Bloomberg, Alphabet Inc.’s internet search giant Google is now facing at least one European probe on privacy after the company admitted that it had kept quiet about a software “glitch” in its Google+ social network for the last few months.
Germany’s data protection commissioner, Johannes Caspar, announced in Hamburg that his agency had started investigating the glitch that could possibly have put personal information of as many as half a million users at risk.
Caspar is known as one of Europe’s most outspoken officials and he said that at this point in time there was no information provided by Google and that he also had not insights into this case.
Caspar and the German privacy regulators are not the only one who are looking into this case. Ireland’s privacy regulator, which may end up becoming Google’s main regulator in Europe in future, stated that it would be asking the internet search giant to provide details about this issue.
Google had found about this software vulnerability back in March this year, but did not make the discovery public as the company feared severe regulatory backlash at that time. Facebook was also going through a huge wave of criticism at that time for its failure to protect its users’ privacy.
Wall Street Journal was the newspaper that broke the news this Monday, after which Google admitted to this glitch having occurred. Just minutes after WSJ’s news report was published, Google also issued an announcement on its blog, stating that an internal committee had decided not to publicize the breach since there had been no evidence of the data having been tampered with. The data included users’ names, email IDs, occupations as well as ages. Google also assured everyone through its blog post that the glitch had been fixed as soon as it was discovered.
This revelation is not good for Google, as it has just added to the internet giant’s troubles in both the US as well as Europe. In the last two months, politicians in the US have been increasing their attack on the technology behemoth. And this time, both Democrats as well as Republicans are united in their criticism of the company.
In Europe, Google has already been under the microscope for privacy issues as well as from competition regulators. Just as recently as in July, the technology company was fined a record €4.3 billion (~$4.9 billion) for antitrust issues. The EU regulators also demanded that the company change the manner in which it puts its web-browsing as well as search apps on Android smartphones. They said that the company was forcing users to use their apps, which was against antitrust policies.
The spokesperson for Google in Brussels, Al Verney, was not available for comment.
This new revelation looks to be turning into the latest in a line of data privacy related scandals. Facebook has already been pummeled by multiple data breach revelations this year alone, and has become the first tech company to have the new, more stringent European Union privacy rules.
According to the new data privacy rules in the EU, any breach would lead to fines being imposed to the tune of 4% of a company’s yearly sales.
Google, however, may get lucky. Since the data breach took place in March this year, before the new data privacy laws came into effect, the company’s indiscretion may be evaluation on the basis of the previous rules. If that is the case, then the internet giant could get away with a much small penalty.