Google is to shut down Google+ following a security breach that was discovered way back in March of this year. The software bug that was discovered meant that the private information of around 500’000 Google+ users was at risk. However, Google has been quick to announce that there is no evidence that any of the said data has been misused. They also stated that they kept the security breach from the public through fear of ‘regulatory scrutiny’. Despite the fact that the information at risk belonged to members of the public.
Let’s take a deeper look at what happened and what’s to come following the Google+ security breach…
Security Breach – What Happened?
Back in March as part of Google’s ‘Project Strobe’ they discovered that a bug allowed developers access to Google+ users private profile information. The information that they had access to included; name, email address, occupation, gender and age. Although the security breach is serious, Google has defended themselves by stating that the information at risk ‘does not include any other data you may have posted or connected to Google+ such as messages, address, and phone numbers’. What this means is that although there has been a security breach, it did not allow full access to Google+ users private information.
However, as with many aspects of Google, there is smoke and mirrors covering the whole story which is where it gets a little confusing. Google has confirmed that they don’t really know the full extent of the breach. Which is why they have decided to shut down Google+ for consumers. Also, Google recently disclosed that it took them 3 years to discover that the bug was there. Which is why the full extent of the security breach is still unclear. So on one hand, they are saying that it the breach did not grant full access to user’s information. On the other hand, they are saying they don’t know what, or who’s, data has been breached. Hence, why there is so much confusion about what has actually gone on. What are you supposed to believe?
The truth of it all is, Google doesn’t actually know what data has been collected following the breach and they have no idea which users were affected by the bug. But, could the breach actually be doing Google a favour?
Are Google Happy to See Google+ Go?
There is an irony surrounding the whole shutting down of Google+. This is due to the fact that since its launch in 2011, Google+ has been somewhat of a joke in the world of social media. Originally, Google+ was Google’s answer to Facebook. However, they quickly realised that consumers didn’t really like the platform and it was slated in the media. The company recently revealed that usage was lower than people may first have thought. With 90% of user sessions lasting less than 5 seconds…
The irony of it all is that in the past, Google has defended their social media platform tooth and nail. However, as soon as the security breach occurred, Google was quick to remind us all of the low engagement rates. Bearing this in mind, I’m pretty certain that Google+ won’t be missed, however, it’s definitely worth knowing that it’s being shut down.
What Happens Next?
Google has stated that they will begin shutting down Google+ over the coming months. Google announced that the process would take 10 months to complete. Meaning it will be completely shut down by August 2019. Due to the shortcomings of the platform, it is possible that Google+ would have been shut down without the breach of security. However, the breach seems to have forced Google’s hand.
Going ahead, Google has stated that they will be revamping Google+ for businesses. In their words, “Google+ is better suited as an enterprise product where co-workers can engage in internal discussions on a secure corporate social network”. Basically, Google is holding onto the most popular aspect of the Google+ network which is their hangouts.
Google will also be reviewing their security and privacy changes. Instead of a being able to sign into all of Google’s products such as Gmail, drive, and calendar. Each of these will have their own passwords and you will have to allow access to each of them if you want to sync an app that is requesting access to your Google information.
Obviously, the underlying reason that Google+ is being shut down is the fact there has been a security breach of users personal information. We are all familiar with the heavily publicised Facebook data scandal from back in April 2018. Where 87 million users’ data was shared with the political consultancy company Cambridge Analytica. Zuckerberg had to face the thunder and answer for the companies mistakes. This will be no different for Google. Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai is expected to testify before Congress in November where he is likely to be questioned on two things. The breach itself and the decision to keep it a secret from the public. Some tricky times ahead for Google’s CEO that’s for sure…