RIP Google+

We all saw it coming.

The unpopular platform is being retired.

When it’s reported that MySpace (yes, it still exists) has more monthly visits than the Google+ platform, it should come as no surprise that Google has recently announced that they will be closing down the social platform.

With interactions on the platform averaging only 5 seconds, the decision has been made to phase the platform out.

Pretty straightforward, right?

But wait, there’s more. What makes this announcement interesting, is that it only comes in the wake of a Wall Street Journal report, exposing a data leak that impacted over 500,000 accounts.

Whilst this is nothing new for social platforms, it is reported that Google actively decided not to disclose their own leak – in order to avoid a PR disaster.

Google announced the shutdown via blog post shortly after the report was published.

The report details a bug in the API for Google+ that was discovered back in March 2018.

The first issue.

The bug allowed third-party app developers to access the data of not only the users who had granted permissions but also the data of their connections who had not granted permissions.

Now, it’s unlikely the leaked data has been misused, however, Google+ only keeps the affected API’s data log for two weeks. Because of this, they cannot confirm which users were impacted.

What can be confirmed is what data was compromised. This was limited to static Google+ profile fields, such as Name, email address, occupation, gender and age.

Google Vice President of Engineering, Ben Smith said “Our Privacy and Data Protection Office reviewed the issue, looking at the type of data involved, whether we could accurately identify the users to inform, whether there was any evidence of misuse and whether there were any actions a developer or user could take in response. None of these thresholds were met in this instance.”

The cover up.

So, what is it that we should be annoyed about? The bug in the API to begin with or the failure to disclose a breach in user data security? Add to the list of grievances, leaked internal memos of Google policy & legal staff actively discouraging disclosure.

Said memos were obtained and published by The Wall Street Journal. These memos claim disclosure would result “in us coming into the spotlight alongside or even instead of Facebook despite having stayed under the radar throughout the Cambridge Analytica scandal”.

This kind of exposed behaviour will no doubt see the search giant face increasing calls for regulation and maybe even testimony before US Congress, similar to what Mark Zuckerberg had to endure earlier this year.

Farewell.

I think it’s safe to say that few social marketers will shed tears when the platform finally shuts down. For many of us, this has been a long time coming. Hello? Myspace was more popular.

This loss will be a mere blimp on the radar. Not dissimilar to its overall impact in the social sphere over the past 7 years.

Google has confirmed that the platform will be phased out over the next 10 months.

 

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