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Google kept quiet for more than six months about its discovery of a bug that put at risk the personal data of hundreds of thousands of Google+ users, the company said Monday, a delay that could spark a new round of regulatory and political scrutiny.

The flaw meant some Google profile information that users had thought was private, such as a person's email address, occupation, gender or age, could have been viewed by third parties, the company said in a post on a corporate blog.

Apparently keen to prove that Facebook isn't the only company that can get itself into boiling hot water over privacy and data, Google has today joined the club by confirming that a Google+ security bug allowed third-party developers to access user data unimpeded, with the issue dating all the way back to 2015.

Google announced on Monday that it is shutting down its Google+ (Google Plus) social network for consumers, apparently doing so as part of its response to serious allegations raised this morning by The Wall Street Journal.

Google will also "limit the apps that may seek permission to access your consumer Gmail data", while Google Play will limit which apps that can ask for a user's phone (including call logs) and SMS data.

While Google says there is no clear misuse of profile data that occurred as a result of this breach, MacMillan of the Journal says it raises questions about the company's commitment to user privacy.

Google says the were able to discover and immediately patch this bug in March of this year. Still, Facebook's Cambridge Analytica breach was revealed in March, and that didn't prevent a £500,000 ($652,000) fine by Britain's Information Commissioner's Office.

Reports of the Google+ security bug reopened long-standing complaints about how Google handles personal data.

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"To give people a full opportunity to transition, we will implement this wind-down over a 10-month period, slated for completion by the end of next August", said Ben Smith, Google's Vice President of Engineering.

According to the Journal, Google's legal and policy team warned senior executives at the company that disclosing the security flaw could lead to "immediate regulatory interest".

Google's top executives have displayed a reluctance to appear in front of Congress recently.

If you don't see the downgrade page and instead see an upgrade page, you have already deleted your Google+ profile (or didn't have one).

Despite that, the company plans to keep Google+ operational as an enterprise product, allowing companies to use it as an internal communication platform for employees.

The leaked memo says that while there is no evidence that outside developers misused any data, there is still no way to know for sure.

For Gmail apps requesting permission to user data Google will only grant access to apps which 'directly enhancing email functionality-such as email clients, email backup services and productivity services (e.g., CRM and mail merge services)'.


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