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Google Plus social network to shut down after major security lapse

Google has announced it will be winding down its little-used Plus social network. The tech giant has also admitted that a bug in its social network may have exposed the personal data of some 500,000 users.Google will gradually shut down the consumer version of its long-shunned social network Plus, after the search giant disclosed on Monday it had discovered a security lapse that may have exposed the personal information of up to 500,000 users.

Announcing the move in a blog post, the American internet giant said it would "sunset" Google Plus for consumers over the next 10 months after failing to gain any major traction since launching in 2011. The enterprise version of the social network for businesses will remain online.

Google also admitted that a privacy bug back in March gave more than 400 third-party applications access to users' names, email addresses, occupations, genders and ages without authorization. Google said it hadn't found any evidence that "any developer was aware of this bug, or abusing the API, and we found no evidence that any profile data was misused."

The exposed information did not include posts, messages or telephone numbers, a Google spokesperson said.

Saved by Facebook's blushes?

Google has declined to comment on why it held off reporting the breach. However, a report by The Wall Street Journal newspaper suggested that the Mountain View, California, company wanted to avoid drawing regulatory scrutiny.

The discovery would have been around the same time as social network giant Facebook was coming under fire after it emerged that as many as 87 million user profiles were harvested and sent to Cambridge Analytica, a political firm employed by the campaign to elect Donald Trump to the presidency.

Google has denied the newspaper's accusations, saying it determined its course of action based on the data involved in the breach, lack of evidence of data misuse and the challenge of determining precisely how many and which users were affected.

Nevertheless, as a result of the security audit, the search giant has vowed to allow users to tightly control what data is made available to third-party applications that sync with Google accounts.

Read more: UK court blocks class action lawsuit against Google

"Going forward, consumers will get more fine-grained control over what account data they choose to share with each app," Google said.

The Google Plus security blunder could still give the US Congress a reason to enforce tighter laws surrounding data collection.

Earlier this year, the European Union imposed tougher online privacy laws known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The new rules force companies to disclose any data breaches within 72 hours of being discovered.

However, the EU regulations would not apply to the Plus problem, since Google discovered the bug before they took effect.

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dm/cmk (AP, AFP, dpa)

Topics: Google Plus

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