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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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5 Responses

  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


  2. France has handed Google a $57 million fine for breaking EU privacy laws

    Google has been fined $57 million by French authorities for breaking the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation law.

    The news: France’s National Data Protection Commission (CNIL) concluded Google is flouting the European Union’s GDPR privacy law in two ways. Firstly, by failing to explain its data collection policies properly, and secondly, by failing to get users’ consent for data processing and ad personalization across its services, including its search engine, Google Maps,and YouTube.

    Record-breaker: The fine is the biggest to be handed out so far under GDPR, which came into force in May 2018. It was handed out in response to two complaints filed on the day the law went into effect,by NOYB, a watchdog launched by Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems, and French digital rights group La Quadrature du Net.

    In other EU news .… A final vote on its controversial Copyright Directive has been called off after 11 countries withdrew support for it. It’s been delayed until March, 2019.

    MIT Technology Review


  3. Google

    Some activists, frustrated by the inability of regulators to effectively constrain Google’s actions, have taken matters into their own hands. They’ve created a browser extension called AdNauseam that automatically clicks on web ads to interfere with behavioral tracking and profiling.


    AdNauseam is a tool of obfuscation. Obfuscation tactics are a sort of guerrilla warfare approach to the lack of privacy protections. Since it’s not possible to hide from Google’s surveillance, these tactics introduce inaccurate or excessive information to confuse and ultimately sabotage it.




    Google Cloud lost $5.6 billion and don’t even ask for the financials about Waymo, Loon, Hangouts, DeepMind, Nest, Sidewalk Labs and most every other business Google has started.



  5. Google Ethics

    Google’s months-long AI ethics roller coaster isn’t slowing down: On Thursday, it announced a restructuring of its AI ethics teams. And on Friday, it terminated another AI ethics leader.

    Margaret Mitchell had co-led the ethical AI team with Timnit Gebru, the researcher Google fired in December. Mitchell lost her job after using an automated script to search emails for evidence of discrimination against Gebru.



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