This is four months earlier than the previously announced shut down, which was scheduled for August of 2019. Google is forced to fold the social network due to multiple data leaks that have left consumers vulnerable.
The First Leak
In October of 2018, the Wall Street Journal reported a bug with the Google+ network, which had gone unreported and unfixed for as long as three years. The bug mistakenly allowed third-party developers to access user profile information that had been marked as private. The compromised fields included name, email, occupation, age, and gender. Google reported that the exposed information, “does not include any other data you may have posted or connected to Google+ or any other service, like Google+ posts, messages, Google account data, phone numbers or G Suite content.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, Google chose not to reveal the breach when it was first discovered for fear of losing credibility with the public. Nearly half a million users may have had their private information compromised while the bug went unfixed. In an attempt to ease the minds of users, Google stated that they, “found no evidence that any developer was aware of this bug, or abusing the API, and we found no evidence that any profile data was misused.” However, they also implied that they did not know the full extent of the breach.
The Second Leak
The most recent data leak occurred in November. According to Google, it was discovered quickly and promptly fixed. However, the leak still affected 52.5 million users, whose information again could have been exposed to third-party developers. This time, Google maintained transparency with the threat and designed a solution with user protection in mind. David Thacker, Vice President of Project Management at Google released a post stating, “With the discovery of this new bug, we have decided to expedite the shut-down of all Google+ APIs; this will occur within the next 90 days. In addition, we have also decided to accelerate the sunsetting of consumer Google+ from August 2019 to April 2019. While we recognize there are implications for developers, we want to ensure the protection of our users.”
The bug was discovered as part of standard testing procedures and Google began notifying impacted users as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this effort to maintain transparency was not enough to save their social network. To read more about the bug and expedited shut down, see Google’s announcement.
And now, we bid the Google+ social network farewell. All Google+ APIs will be shut down within the next 90 days. The network will close to consumers in April of 2019, but Google plans to continue operating Google+ as an enterprise product for those that subscribe to G Suite services.