Google never could figure out a coherent story to tell that would spur greater use of its flameout of a social network. And now it seems the wind-down of Google+ is becoming equally as nettlesome as Google is now having to shut it down earlier than planned because of yet another data leak.
One day before Google CEO Sundar Pichai is set to testify before Congress about a slew of issues that are likely to include data privacy and security, Google took to its company blog to announce that it’s moving up the planned shutdown date of Google+ by four months. Why? Well, “low usage,” in the company’s own words, is part of it. The company also announced a security bug affecting a little less than 500,000 users and said it would shut down Google+ this coming August. But a new data leak has been found, and Google has decided to expedite things.
From that blog post: “We’ve recently determined that some users were impacted by a software update introduced in November that contained a bug affecting a Google+ API. We discovered this bug as part of our standard and ongoing testing procedures and fixed it within a week of it being introduced. No third party compromised our systems, and we have no evidence that the app developers that inadvertently had this access for six days were aware of it or misused it in any way.”
Because of this bug — which Google says impacts data associated with some 52.5 million users — the company is nixing all Google+ APIs within 90 days. The social network itself will now shut down in April instead of August.
Google says the new bug, which was live for six days in November, allowed apps with access to a user’s Google+ profile data to view information like a user’s name, email address, occupation and age. It’s certainly an ignominious end for a social network that had already brought Google some unwanted scrutiny when it announced Google+’s end previously, with a Wall Street Journal report at the time noting Google sat on that earlier security bug at first because the company didn’t want its reputation to take a hit or to attract attention from regulators.
“We understand that our ability to build reliable products that protect your data drives user trust,” Google says by way of concluding its blog post. “We have always taken this seriously, and we continue to invest in our privacy programs to refine internal privacy review processes, create powerful data controls, and engage with users, researchers, and policymakers to get their feedback and improve our programs. We will never stop our work to build privacy protections that work for everyone.”