After user data was left unprotected, Google has decided to shut down the majority of its social network, Google+.
Due to a software bug, information that users were led to believe was private, had actually been exposed and was accessible by third parties. Up to 500,000 users were thought to be affected by the data breach.
Despite knowing about the issue in March, Google decided not to inform the public as, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal, doing so would invoke immediate regulatory interest. Google also released a statement assuring people the issue was not serious enough to inform the public.
“Our Privacy and Data Protection Office reviewed this issue, looking at the type of data involved, whether we could accurately identify the users to inform, whether there was any evidence of misuse, and whether there were any actions a developer or user could take in response.
“None of these thresholds were met here.”
Whilst Google+ will shut down for consumers, it will continue to offer private Google+ powered networks for businesses currently using the software.
The consumer version of Google+ has struggled to gain traction since its launch in 2011, which was supposed to be a rival to compete with Facebook. However, Google itself has revealed the social network has suffered from low usage and engagement.
Ben Smith, Google’s vice president of engineering, wrote in a blog posted on Monday:
“While our engineering teams have put a lot of effort and dedication into building Google+ over the years, it has not achieved broad consumer or developer adoption, and has seen limited user interaction with apps. The consumer version of Google+ currently has low usage and engagement: 90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds. We’ve decided to focus on our enterprise efforts and will be launching new features purpose-built for businesses. We will share more information in the coming days.”