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Google announced Monday it’s shutting down social networking site Google+, following a Wall Street Journal report the tech giant failed to notify hundreds of thousands of users had their profile information exposed by a bug.
The bug allowed third-party app developers to access Google+ accounts since 2015 — an issue Google wasn’t aware of until this past March. Google decided against notifying users because it would bring the company “into the spotlight alongside or even instead of Facebook despite having stayed under the radar throughout the Cambridge Analytica scandal,” according to an internal memo obtained by the WSJ.
The bug exposed the names, emails, birthdays, pictures, work history, and relationship status of Google+ users.
Google said it “cannot confirm which users were impacted by this bug” in a Monday blog post, but “up to 500,000 Google+ accounts were potentially affected.” The company added it found “no evidence” any of the 438 app developers with access to the bug were aware of/or abusing its access.
While Google+ was already a digital wasteland, failing to cut into Facebook’s dominance since launching in 2011, it has now become a potential regulatory headache. The company didn’t breach any federal laws in failing to notify users, but like Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data leak, where 87 million users had their profiles unwittingly accessed, it could increase scrutiny from lawmakers at a time when Silicon Valley is already in the crosshairs of Congress. Google realized as much, saying it “almost guarantees” CEO Sundar Pichai “will testify before Congress,” according to the internal memo obtained by the WSJ.
Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg famously testified before Congress in April, following Facebook’s security breach.
Google shares dropped 1.3 percent in midday trading to $1,151 following the announcement.