Google shutting down Google+ after user data exposed - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Google shutting down Google+ after user data exposed

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WSIL -- Google is shutting down its long-shunned Google+ social network for consumers, following its disclosure of a flaw discovered in March that could have exposed some personal information of up to 500,000 people.

The announcement came in a Monday blog post, which marked Google's first public description of the privacy bug.

Google deliberately avoided disclosing the problem at the time, in part to avoid drawing regulatory scrutiny and damaging its reputation, according to a Wall Street Journal story that cited anonymous individuals and documents.

The Mountain View, California, company declined to comment on the Journal's report, and didn't fully explain in its blog post why it held off on revealing the bug until Monday.

The Google Plus flaw could have allowed up to 438 external apps to scoop up user names, email addresses, occupations, genders and ages without authorization. The company didn't find any evidence that any of the personal information affected by the Plus breach was misused.

The timeline laid out by Google indicates the company discovered the privacy lapse around the same time that Facebook was under fire for a leak in its far more popular social network. Facebook's breakdown exposed the personal information of as many as 87 million of its users to Cambridge Analytica, a data mining firm affiliated with President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.

The desire to peer into people's lives is one of the reasons that Google launched Plus in 2011. It was supposed to be a challenger to Facebook's social network, which now has more than 2 billion users. But Plus flopped and quickly turned into a digital ghost town, prompting Google to start de-emphasizing it several years ago.

But the company kept it open long enough to cause an embarrassing privacy gaffe that could give Congress an excuse to enact tighter controls on data collection.

HOW TO DELETE YOUR ACCOUNT

Even if you, like many, haven't used your Google+ account, it could still be at risk. Here's how to delete your account before it is officially shut down by Google in 10 months.

Sign into Gmail. Select your icon in the top right. If it has "Google+ profile" up there, you still have an account even if it is dormant.

Click on 'Google+ profile' to visit the page. Then, click on Settings on the lower left side. Scroll down all the way to the bottom of the settings page and you will find: 'Account – Delete Your Google+ Profile'.

Clicking on this will delete your profile. Deleting the profile will impact content on Google+, Google+ Pages, and a linked Youtube account if you have one. Read the information carefully to decide if you want to move forward because once you delete it, you cannot get your profile back.

ABC News contributed to this report.

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