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Expediting changes to Google+

December 10th, 2018

In October, we announced that we’d be sunsetting the consumer version of Google+ and its APIs because of the significant challenges involved in maintaining a successful product that meets consumers’ expectations, as well as the platform’s low usage.

We’ve recently determined that some users were impacted by a software update introduced in November that contained a bug affecting a Google+ API. We discovered this bug as part of our standard and ongoing testing procedures and fixed it within a week of it being introduced. No third party compromised our systems, and we have no evidence that the app developers that inadvertently had this access for six days were aware of it or misused it in any way.

With the discovery of this new bug, we have decided to expedite the shut-down of all Google+ APIs; this will occur within the next 90 days. In addition, we have also decided to accelerate the sunsetting of consumer Google+ from August 2019 to April 2019. While we recognize there are implications for developers, we want to ensure the protection of our users.

Details about the bug and our investigation

Our testing revealed that a Google+ API was not operating as intended. We fixed the bug promptly and began an investigation into the issue.

Our investigation into the impact of the bug is ongoing, but here is what we have learned so far:

  • We have confirmed that the bug impacted approximately 52.5 million users in connection with a Google+ API.
  • With respect to this API, apps that requested permission to view profile information that a user had added to their Google+ profile—like their name, email address, occupation, age (full list here)—were granted permission to view profile information about that user even when set to not-public.
  • In addition, apps with access to a user’s Google+ profile data also had access to the profile data that had been shared with the consenting user by another Google+ user but that was not shared publicly.
  • The bug did not give developers access to information such as financial data, national identification numbers, passwords, or similar data typically used for fraud or identity theft.
  • No third party compromised our systems, and we have no evidence that the developers who inadvertently had this access for six days were aware of it or misused it in any way.

We have begun the process of notifying consumer users and enterprise customers that were impacted by this bug. Our investigation is ongoing as to any potential impact on other Google+ APIs.

Next steps for Consumer Google+

We will sunset all Google+ APIs in the next 90 days. Developers can expect to hear more from us on this topic in the coming days and can stay informed by continuing to check the Google+ developer page.

We have also decided to accelerate sunsetting consumer Google+, bringing it forward from August 2019 to April 2019. We want to give users ample opportunity to transition off of consumer Google+, and over the coming months, we will continue to provide users with additional information, including ways they can safely and securely download and migrate their data.

A note for our enterprise customers

We are in the process of notifying any enterprise customers that were impacted by this bug. A list of impacted users in those domains is being sent to system administrators, and we will reach out again if any additional impacted users or issues are discovered.

G Suite administrators are always in control of their users’ apps. This ensures that G Suite users can give access only to apps that have been vetted and are trusted by their organization. In addition, we want to reiterate that we will continue to invest in Google+ for the enterprise. More details were announced in October.

We understand that our ability to build reliable products that protect your data drives user trust. We have always taken this seriously, and we continue to invest in our privacy programs to refine internal privacy review processes, create powerful data controls, and engage with users, researchers, and policymakers to get their feedback and improve our programs. We will never stop our work to build privacy protections that work for everyone.