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GOOGLE Plus to Close

After exposing half a million users’ private data

By Martin Giles [MIT Technology Review]

Google kept quiet for months about a security flaw that exposed private information of up to half a million users of its Google+ social network.

The cover up: According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Google discovered a bug in Google+ code in March and fixed it, but decided not to reveal its existence. An internal Google memo showed that executives were worried about the damage the news would do to Google’s reputation at a time when Facebook was under fire for mishandling customer data in the Cambridge Analytica affair.

The bug: It had been around since 2015 and was found in code that lets third-party app developers access publicly available Google+ profile data about a user and their connections, with the user’s permission. The glitch meant developers could access private details about people’s friends too, for example their email addresses, birthdays, and relationship statuses. Google has now shut off consumer access to Google+.

The consequences: The cover up will put even more pressure on policymakers to scrutinize the power of big tech companies and their grip over our data. It will also fuel attempts by privacy activists to get tougher laws in place to force companies to reveal actual and potential data leaks, such as Europe’s new data protection regime.

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One Response

  1. Rise of the robot callers

    Google’s unnervingly human-like voice system, Duplex, can now screen your calls. Meanwhile, startup DoNotPay has launched an automated service to call California’s vehicle agency to cut your wait time for an appointment.

    Call screening: Google announced Dupex’s new capabilities at its Pixel 3 smartphone launch event yesterday. When someone calls, it will ask their name and purpose, then allow you the option of picking up, marking it as spam or sending a message like “I’ll call you later”. The screening service will identify itself as such, as per a new company policy for bots to disclose themselves.

    The robots are calling: DoNotPay, which provides easier ways to navigate the legal system, has also launched an app that deploys an automated robocaller to get you an earlier reservation with the California DMV. It can call up to 1,000 times a day to see if a cancellation has become available. The startup is thinking of applying the same tech to passport applications, Social Security services and dealing with large corporations.

    Consumer fight back: Both bots boost the role of automation in phone calls and help consumers avoid long wait times on the phone. However there’s one crucial difference. Unlike Duplex, DoNotPay’s system is designed only to pit machines against each other. There are no humans involved.

    MIT Technology Review

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