Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Monday up to 500,000 Google+ user accounts were potentially affected by a bug that may have exposed their data to external developers, and the company is shutting down the social network for consumers.
Google opted not to disclose the issue partly because of fears of regulatory scrutiny, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier, citing unnamed sources and internal documents.
A software glitch in the social site gave outside developers potential access to private Google+ profile data between 2015 and March 2018, when internal investigators discovered and fixed the issue, the report said.
The affected data is limited to static, optional Google+ Profile fields including name, email address, occupation, gender and age, Google said.
“We found no evidence that any developer was aware of this bug, or abusing the API, and we found no evidence that any Profile data was misused,” Google said
A memo, prepared by Google’s legal and policy staff and shared with senior executives, warned that disclosing the incident would likely trigger “immediate regulatory interest” and invite comparisons to Facebook’s leak of user information to data firm Cambridge Analytica, the WSJ report said.
Allegations of the improper use of data for 87 million Facebook users by Cambridge Analytica, which was hired by President Donald Trump’s 2016 US election campaign, has hurt the shares of the world’s biggest social network and prompted multiple official investigations in the US and Europe.
Google Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai was briefed on the plan not to notify users after an internal committee had reached that decision, according to the WSJ.