Google is often referred to as the search engine industry’s undisputed kingpin. Were it not for Bing and a few other select options, they’d be a virtual monopoly.
But just because a company excels in one area doesn’t mean they can replicate that success in another. While Google may be a search engine giant, their social network-style platform Google Plus has long been overlooked and even shunned by users.
Originally created as an answer to Facebook, the platform failed to catch on in the way the company would’ve liked. After their buyout of YouTube, they made it, so people would be required to use Google Plus to have an account on the video sharing website. But even that wasn’t enough to make people actually use Plus, with many profiles seemingly sitting around and doing nothing but taking up bytes.
And now the platform has gone from being one that not a lot of people to use to one that not a lot of people will trust. Google announced that a security vulnerability has compromised the private data of about 500,000 users.
This happened back in March, and the company’s curious decision not to reveal it until now stems from their understanding that they weren’t required to per their data privacy terms. The issue stemmed from coding links known as application programming interfaces. When used by other companies, the links could’ve given them access to things like usernames, occupations, gender, age, and email addresses. Google said that phone numbers, messages, and Google Plus posts were safe.
But while some wondered how the company would handle this issue, it appears they’re going to the extreme with a solution. With Plus already going from a platform few used to one few would trust, it is now going to be one that no one will use. Google is pulling the plug on the struggling platform.
A memo noted that the company was worried about potential regulatory scrutiny and embarrassment if news of the breach broke. New data privacy laws in California and Europe have put more pressure on digital companies, but Google’s decision not to disclose their security vulnerability was within their rights. While not illegal, it is still troubling and will change how users view the company in some regards.
It isn’t uncommon for companies to fix problems before they are exploited. Requiring them to announce all vulnerabilities would be counterproductive by some estimations, and this would, in turn, be counterproductive by some estimates. It’s also not unheard of for companies to wait before disclosing data breaches and to release information about the breaches as it becomes available.
While Google will turn off the consumer version of Google Plus in August of next year, the version for corporate customers will continue as normal. Google never quite accomplished what they’d hoped for with Plus. It was an experiment, but ultimately never caught on the way their search engine did. And after this breach, one has to wonder if they’ll ever try anything similar again.