We’ve not been shy in reporting on Facebook’s various misdemeanors this year, from the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal that landed CEO Mark Zuckerberg in hot water, right through to its most recent admission that it uses your private security data to help target ads.
But another company with a very similar business model (collect user data, sell adverts, profit) is Google. Though most people are aware that its various services are only free because its billions of users are being monetized, Google has managed to escape the level of media condemnation that has befallen Facebook this year. Even though it sometimes allows developers to read your emails.
Now, thanks to a report from an internal data protection team, we know that Google has made some very similar mistakes – it just covered them up better. And the company’s failed social network Google+ is taking the hit.
According to Google’s own Project Strobe, Google+ allowed third-party developers access to the private profile data of up to 500,000 users earlier this year. It’s a relatively small breach compared to Cambridge Analytica, and unlike that case, there’s no evidence any data was misused – but what’s especially worrying is how Google decided to keep the news quiet rather than risk being hit by the same media storm that was circling around Facebook. What else is it covering up?
As a result, Google has essentially said that maintaining Google+ for consumers to a decent level of privacy is too much work for too little gain. It’s not a popular social network; more than 90% of visits to the website last less than five seconds. Over the next ten months, Google+ for consumers will be shut down for good. However, the site is a relative hit for business communications and an enterprise-only version will remain.
We doubt many reading this will shed a tear for the demise of Google+, but there are plenty other, better, Google services we’d be sad to see go. We won’t be boycotting the big G, but we do hope that Project Strobe successfully improves the state of Google’s privacy policies and the way it allows third-parties access to your data.
As ever, keep using these services if you find them useful, but always be wary about what you share with companies like Facebook and Google.