At the beginning of the week, Google announced that it will be shutting down Google Plus (Google’s own social network which is similar to Facebook) after it discovered that user information had been exposed. To put it less vaguely, it was actually discovered that a security vulnerability meant that the private data of up to 500,000 users had been leaked. Sounds pretty similar to the Facebook scandal which went on earlier this year, right?
Unlike Facebook, who publicly announced this issue and received a lot of backlash, Google did not tell any users about it when it happened back in March. Their reasoning for this was because they believed that no access was gained to user information, meaning it was covered by their Privacy & Data Protection guidelines. This basically means that they were not legally required to report the issue.
However, their decision to stay quiet was not taken well, as there have recently been new rules in the cybersecurity network which state that a company must inform users when their security has become vulnerable. You’d like to know if your privacy was at stake, right? Here’s a quick rundown of the data that could have been accessed by up to 438 applications made by other companies through ‘application programming interfaces’:
✅ usernames, email addresses, occupation, gender, age
❌ phone numbers, messages, Google Plus posts, data from other Google accounts
So, to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again, or happens worse, Google has made the decision to shut down Google Plus and focus on enterprise efforts instead. For more information, you can read the official blog post here.
Google+ is shutting down.
This is like when a band announces they’re splitting up and your first reaction is, “oh, didn’t realise they were still going”
— I Am Devloper (@iamdevloper) October 9, 2018
A brief history of Google Plus’ mishappenings
It’s safe to say that Google Plus didn’t exactly have the smoothest of journeys, and it was clear that this was the last straw. Since it’s launch in 2011, here are some key takeaways from Google Plus:
June 2011: Google Plus launched
“In this basic, human way, online sharing is awkward. Even broken. And we aim to fix it.” With this bold claim from Google, it was suspected that Google Plus would be Facebook’s archenemy. Facebooks killer. The next best thing. Google promised to provide users with a better-connected world, organised into circles of friends. The ideas were there, but did they succeed?
February 2012: Questionable user numbers
Soon after the launch, Google’s CEO Larry Page gloated that Google Plus was serving for 90 million users, despite being called a ‘virtual ghost town’ compared to Facebook by Wall Street Journal. This sparked a lot of confusion, and it was discovered that these ‘90 million users’ were not solely using Google Plus. Instead, they were just signing into their Google network and being recorded as a Plus user. For the most part, they weren’t even engaging with the network!
March 2012: High defence for Google Plus
Just a month later, former Vice President Vic Gundotra spoke at South by Southwest, defending Google Plus with some interesting statements. Describing Google Plus as a ‘social layer across all of Google’s services’, Gundotra went on to explain that “you can think of Google+ as Google 2.0. It’s the next generation of Google”. Pretty bold, right? With the impression that this platform will take a more personalised approach, Gundotra was certain that Google Plus was the next best thing.
April 2014: Vic Gundotra leaves Google
After almost 3 years of little success in pushing Google’s social side, Gundotra announced that he was leaving Google. This put the life of Google Plus at serious risk. Without a passionate leader, it didn’t take long for Google to give up and put Plus employees in different departments. Although not completely written off, Google Plus lost it’s greatest ambassador.
March 2015: Google Plus is split into two
Bradley Horowitz was appointed to replace Vic Gundotra. One of his first official decisions was to split Google Plus into two; Photos and Streams. Whilst this meant that Google Plus wasn’t extinct just yet, it did prove that Google was straying away from the Plus branding – very quickly.
October 2018: The end of Google Plus
Well, you know how this one goes (just have another read of this blog if not!). October 2018, Google Plus officially gets shut down after facing some worrying security issues.
What an interesting journey it has been for Google Plus!