Google Accelerates Google+ Shutdown After Discovery of New Security Hole
Google had to face reality earlier this year when it announced that its Google+ social network would shut down for consumers. It said usage of G+ had fallen to basically zero, and a security review had found a nasty API bug. Now, Google has accelerated plans to close the site down after discovering another critical vulnerability.
In October, Google explained that G+ had failed to gain momentum, which you’d have no trouble seeing for yourself if you used the site. It’s probably better that no one was using it because Google also uncovered an API bug that could have allowed a third-party to scrape user data. Google maintains that no one outside the company discovered the bug before it rolled out a patch. Someone might have found it if Google+ had enough users to make it a target. But luckily, it did not.
Previously, Google planned to close down Google+ by the end of August 2019, which was an unusually long lead time for a Google product sunset. Google’s G Suite VP David Thacker reports that the company discovered another API bug in Google+. This bug was similar to the one reported in October, but it had the potential to affect many more users; 52.5 million vs. just 500,000. So, Google is going to kill G+ faster.
According to Thacker, the bug exposed non-public profile fields to apps that requested access to your Google+ ID. Like the previous glitch, this extended to profiles that had shared information with yours. Thankfully, the similarities extend to the impact: Google says no one outside the company knew about the vulnerability, and the bug has only been live since last month.
So, Google has essentially decided the G+ code base is such a mess that it needs to accelerate plans to shut it all down. Thus, all Google+ APIs are going away within the next 90 days. That means third-party apps won’t be able to connect to your profile, not that there are many apps with G+ support. In addition, the Google+ site for consumers will go away in April 2019, four months sooner than previously planned.
Google+ will survive in a limited fashion as part of Google’s enterprise offerings. Apparently, companies have found Google+ to be a useful communication and message board tool. G Suite administrators can choose to disable G+ if they don’t want their users on it, though.