According to the news report by Bloomberg, Alphabet Inc.’s Google announced that it discovered a software “glitch” in its social network Google+ earlier this year in March. This “glitch” could have exposed the personal data of as high as 500,000 users. The company stated that it took the decision not to announce this problem to the public till this now.
The company only made the announcement after the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published a news report about this software glitch. According to the report, the search giant was concerned that if it were to reveal this weakness in its systems, it could face massive regulatory backlashes, especially considering how battered Facebook has been due to its data leakage scandal.
However, minutes after the news report was released, Google issued an announcement on its blog that it was going to shut down Google+ for users and was also going introduce new privacy tools that would restrict the way that developers could utilize user data for products ranging from emails to storing files.
Ben Smith, vice president of engineering at Google stated that the internet giant had found the weakness in March while an extensive privacy and security review was being conducted. He stated that an internal committee took the decision not to make this discovery public since there wasn’t any evidence that the exposed data had been misused. This data included names, email IDs, ages and occupations of Google+ users. Smith also stated that this weakness was corrected as soon as it was discovered.
This news report only added to the internet giant’s woes. It also further highlights the theory that Facebook is not the worst offender among technology companies when it comes to data privacy issues.
This year, Facebook had come under intense fire and been the subject of harsh criticism after the social media giant allowed a developer to extract user data and pass it on to a political consultancy that had worked for Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign in 2016.
Now, most technology companies are coming under fire by regulators and law makers as they are being questioned about the measures they are taking to protect user data.
In the last two months, both Democrats and Republicans have been increasingly attacking Google. The Republicans are accusing the internet search giant of creating biases against their party, while the Democrats are saying that Google has become too big and powerful for comfort.
The president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Marc Rotenberg stated that this problem has been carrying on for far too long. He said that companies like Google face software breaches but they do not report them, and thereby avoid facing the consequences of their mistakes.
Rotenberg feels that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has to step up and start investigating privacy practices employed by various companies. The FTC is America’s main privacy regulator and has the authority to investigate data breaches such as the ones that both Google and Facebook have suffered.
While Google+ never really took off as a social media platform, there are still users have accounts that contain personal information. Thus, the company will need to shut down this platform for individual users over the next 10 months. Google will, however, keep a version designed for businesses open.
Alphabet’s shares fell 1% to close trading $1,157.06.