The Google+ social network inadvertently gave app developers access to about 52.5 million users' information — even data not meant to be public — because of a bug in its software, Google says. The news comes two months after Google said it will pull the plug on the network; that process will now be sped up.
Users' name, birth date, email address, work history and other information were exposed for nearly a week in November, Google says in a blog post about the data breach.
Google had previously announced plans to ax its social network, a move that was both the result of a smaller data breach at Google+ and a recognition that it had failed to catch on. In that earlier case, the company said nearly 500,000 accounts had been affected.
"No third party compromised our systems, and we have no evidence that the app developers that inadvertently had this access for six days were aware of it or misused it in any way," Google says about the latest problem, echoing its statement about the earlier breach.
The company adds that the November breach did not expose passwords, financial information, ID numbers and other data that is often used for identity theft.
The bug was in a software update to a Google+ API — or application programming interface — a widely used method for integrating users' data and profile information into apps and devices. The company says it found the problem through a routine review and fixed the bug. That update took place in November, weeks after Google said it's closing down the consumer version of the network.
Because of the latest problem, Google says it will speed up the shutdown of Google+, with its " sunset date" now moved to April of 2019, instead of next August. In addition, all of the social network's APIs will be shut down "within the next 90 days," Google says.
As part of its shutdown plan, Google says it wants to give users time to move to a different platform; it also promises to give users "ways they can safely and securely download and migrate their data."
To some, the most surprising thing about the Google+ shutdown was the fact that the network was still up and running, after being introduced in 2011. Although the consumer version of the social network is going away, Google will continue to offer it to businesses. Both consumers and "enterprise customers" were affected by the recent breach, Google says.
For anyone who wants to leave the service early, the company has also posted a guide titled, "Delete your Google+ profile."
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