back to article Google now minus Google Plus: Social mini-network faces axe in data leak bug drama

Google has surprised Google+ users – all two of them – by vowing to shutter the service over the next ten months in the wake of a potential data leak. In what has become an all-too-familiar scenario, the decision is subject to claim and counter-claim: The Wall Street Journal today alleged that Google covered up a programming …

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  1. beep54
    Facepalm

    Whoops.

    “90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds.” I.e., how did I get this page? That said, a lot of gamers and a not insignificant number of others are going to be pissed.

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      Re: Whoops.

      Surprised it's not 99%+. I took a look as part of a social media course. Never used again. I think that Google will secretly be pleased to be able to shut it down.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        IT Angle

        Re: Whoops.

        I took a look as part of a social media course.

        Oh god, that sounds horrible. My sympathies to you.

    2. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: Whoops.

      "That said, a lot of gamers and a not insignificant number of others are going to be pissed."

      They'll get over it, the same way they have to get over a woman being the new Dr.Who.

      1. AMBxx Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Whoops.

        When did Tom Baker have sex change?

      2. John Lilburne Silver badge

        Re: Whoops.

        "they have to get over a woman being the new Dr.Who."

        But will they ever get over her being from Yorkshire?

        https://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/arts-entertainment/nobody-told-us-shed-be-from-fking-yorkshire-say-outraged-doctor-who-fans-20181008178117

        1. ibmalone Silver badge

          Re: Whoops.

          "they have to get over a woman being the new Dr.Who."

          But will they ever get over her being from Yorkshire?

          https://www.thedailymash.co.uk/news/arts-entertainment/nobody-told-us-shed-be-from-fking-yorkshire-say-outraged-doctor-who-fans-20181008178117

          Lots of planets have a north. (After Christopher Eccleston I suppose it was in the interests of balance.)

          1. ibmalone Silver badge

            Re: Whoops.

            Lots of planets have a north. (After Christopher Eccleston I suppose it was in the interests of balance.)

            I'm trying to guess whether the downvoter was from Lancashire (like Eccleston) or from Yorkshire...

            Edit: suddenly it all becomes clear: the downvote is from Eccleston!

        2. WolfFan Silver badge

          Re: Whoops.

          But will they ever get over her being from Yorkshire?

          Could be worse. Could be Scots.

    3. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Whoops.

      Yeah sorry I accidently clicked the Google+ link from Gmail and close it after a few seconds of realising.

    4. Flakk Silver badge

      Re: Whoops.

      That said, a lot of gamers and a not insignificant number of others are going to be pissed.

      Nah, we use Discord. And I don't know where the Dr. Who shade is coming from. I though Joanna Lumley was fantastic!

  2. Oh Homer Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    "sunsetting" ... lol!

    Read Google's blog, it's hilarious.

    It's classic spin. Announce something that is in reality only negative, but using positive terms. They're "protecting", "improving", "support[ing]" and "strengthen[ing]", allegedly.

    Right, I'm off to "sunset" my Google account. Might as well get ahead of the curve, to save any further surprises when Google inevitably pulls the plug on whatever else of theirs I stupidly depend on.

    Oh well, goodbye dear misspelt googol.

    There late was One within whose subtle being,

    As light and wind within some delicate cloud

    That fades amid the blue noon's burning sky,

    Genius and death contended. None may know

    The sweetness of the joy which made his breath

    Fail, like the trances of the summer air

    ~ Shelley

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: "sunsetting" ... lol!

      Well, while we're quoting Shelley, this extract seems apposite:

      The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

      And on the pedestal, these words appear:

      My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

      Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

      1. fedoraman
        Coat

        Re: "sunsetting" ... lol!

        If it was Works, then you're probably thinking of Microsoft.

        I'll get me coat....

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: "sunsetting" ... lol!

      I'll tell you what the spin is... They want to add Google+ to the Google Graveyard, and this is an excuse to do that.

      Rather annoying, since for the first time ever I regularly went to Google+ to read about FUZIX.

      1. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: "sunsetting" ... lol!

        Since Motorolla have not seen fit to update my phone I will not be bating any breath waiting for the ability to uninstall the Google+ app, along with all the rest I have only been able to disable. I can't even disable Google Now even though I never use it. The bloatware is incredible.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: "sunsetting" ... lol!

          Muscleguy,

          That is a problem with Google as a company. They are just consistently awful at customer service. I don't think they even get the concept of customer relations. It's why I don't think they succeed at hardware, and have so far been restricted to sales to techies.

          They first sold the Nexus phones with no facilities for dealing with returns or repairs. Or having dealt with tarrifs and VAT on international shipping. That's just fucking amateur-hour. There's just no excuse for a company that was turning over tens of billions a year at the time.

          So building unremovable apps into their software, and not even providing for their deletion when they kill the service is just par for the course.

          Google do some good stuff, but they're not what I'd call reliable.

          They regularly kill services with little to no notice and they're always making changes with massive business effects to search and mapping (again with little to no notice).

          They sometimes make Apple look outward-looking and communicative... Can you call a whole company autistic?

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: "sunsetting" ... lol!

      I remember getting so many downvotes from Google+ fans when I said Google would do this a few years ago. It was obvious that when it failed to get anywhere near Facebook they'd find an excuse to kill it off. I'm surprised it's taken so long.

      They launched it with lots of hype, and I actually think it was way better than Facebook too. The circles system was a far better way of controlling your privacy. That's privacy from other users of course, you have none from Google and Facebook. The difference is though that Google have hoovered up the world's personal data and not spaffed it all over the interwebs via a shitty API, unlike FB.

      They tried to force everyone with a Gmail account, Android sign-in or Google login to have a G+ account many years ago. And the writing was on the wall from the day they de-linked them again, because users resisted - and I think quite a lot were actively turning it off. When you can't even force a product one users (even one that's better) it's time to give up on it.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: "sunsetting" ... lol!

        They tried to force everyone with a Gmail account, Android sign-in or Google login to have a G+ account many years ago.

        Google + was a effectively a side-effect of the single sign-on that Google developed and has since, successfully rolled out. While it did have some loyal groups, it was never going to be able to replace Facebook, because for people already using Facebook it didn't offer anything really new, and it was unlikely to appeal to those who didn't want to use a "social network".

        In other news: messengers have been replacing networks for the last couple of years. But no one in the West has really figured how to make money from them. Google has, again, developed usable but lacklustre apps (Allo and Duo), but more importantly worked on the infrastructure (WebRTC and Messages) so that Hangouts for G-Suite makes sense for corporates.

      2. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: "sunsetting" ... lol!

        They tried to force everyone with a Gmail account, Android sign-in or Google login to have a G+ account many years ago. And the writing was on the wall from the day they de-linked them again, because users resisted

        I think most the problem was trying to force users to use their Google+ idents on Youtube.

        Considering the Grade A+++ unsecured facility nuthouse, nobody, including the nuts wanted other headcases and left-ear people taking it into their heads to stalk them, even on an account they hardly never used like Google+.

        I'll miss Google+ for those occasional sign in demands where otherwise I'd have to acquire a new account or get a Facebook one.

        Come to think of it, this decision actually helps Facebook, they should rethink immediately.

  3. Tim99 Silver badge
    Coat

    Google+ users

    A service for people who thought that Google didn't have enough data about you, your friends, and casual acquaintances?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Google+ users

      Which is what everyone was concerned about and thus, not using it. Rumors of them reading everything (well, they do have that reputation) didn't help Google+ at all.

      Is there anyone in this world that actually trusts Google? Or while we're at it.. Facebook?

      1. gv
        Boffin

        Re: Google+ users

        I trust them 110% with my cat photos.

        1. sandman

          Re: Google+ users

          Me too. Oh, wait, I don't have a cat.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Google+ users

            Google knew you didn't have a cat before you did.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Google+ users

          I trust them 110% with my cat photos.

          Hmm, like a touch of the cat, do you? Not sure I'd want those photos out there...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Google+ users

        Which is what everyone was concerned about and thus, not using it.

        I wish that were true. In reality people weren't using it because all their friends (for some online definition of 'friends') were on Facebook.

        1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

          Re: Google+ users

          All my friends are on Facebook? Gosh, is that where they went - I wondered why I haven't seen any of them for a long time ... like I care, most of them are learning to speak Russian these days.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Google+ users

        Yep, I do, their privacy policy is very clearly worded, and they do exactly as they so they do in clear terms.

        Unlike Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, who all do the same, but hide behind complicated privacy policies (Apple, Microsoft), or just ignore it and do what the hell they want (Facebook).

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Google+ users

      A few years ago a read/saw an item that defined all the social media outlets in terms of donuts along the lines of

      Facebook: I'm eating a donut

      Twitter: #donuts!

      Instagram: Here's a picture of the donut I'm eating

      Pinterest: My donut recipe

      Foursquare: I bought donuts here

      ...

      etc

      ....

      and

      Google+: I'm a Google employee who likes donuts

      which I felt summed it up perfectly!

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Google+ users

        The problem with that Donut joke is that the Google employees weren't using it either. One of their chief marketing dudes once made an announcement on his Facebook page, and when El Reg checked he didn't even have a G+ page. That was back when they were still trying to sell G+, before the last 5 years when they'd given up.

    3. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Google+ users

      A service for people who thought that Google didn't have enough data about you, your friends, and casual acquaintances

      Like what? .... “name, email address, occupation, gender and age” stuff that is readily available on Facebook and Linkedin to advertisers and anyone with a little brain. Everyone out there already has this information from pawned accounts worldwide. You really think that shutting Google+ down will fix anything?

  4. Simon Brady

    Absence of evidence

    ...is not evidence of absence. According to the WSJ article:

    During a two-week period in late March, Google ran tests to determine the impact of the bug, one of the [unnamed WSJ sources] said. It found 496,951 users who had shared private profile data with a friend could have had that data accessed by an outside developer, the person said. [...] Because the company kept a limited set of activity logs, it was unable to determine which users were affected and what types of data may potentially have been improperly collected, the two people briefed on the matter said.

    So it might in fact be true that the vulnerability was fixed before it was exploited. But the claim "Google know for sure no harm was done, therefore they had no obligation to tell their customers" simply isn't justified on the face of what we know. The hypocrisy is indeed strong here.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Absence of evidence

      "Because the company kept a limited set of activity logs, it was unable to determine which users were affected and what types of data may potentially have been improperly collected"

      Are we to believe that the All Seeing Eye of Google somehow turned a blind eye to these "activity logs'?

      Google (and Facebook) that gather up every last bit of data that they can slurp but miraculously keep no data points that could help determine amount of users affected or what data may have been "improperly collected"?

      I for one actually believe those bold statements because by Google (and Facebook) not keeping track of those data points gives them Plausible Deniability.

      Just like the plethora of scam websites that trick users into installing malicious apps that use Google analytics and are protected by Googles CAPTCHA software to thwart detection by web scrapers.

      Complicit.

      1. Spazturtle Silver badge

        Re: Absence of evidence

        "are protected by Googles CAPTCHA software to thwart detection by web scrapers."

        Surprised that Google haven't been taking to court over their own web crawler being able to bypass CAPTCHA to allow it to index pages, but CAPTCHA blocking rival search engine's crawlers.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Absence of evidence

      >> The hypocrisy is indeed strong here

      Especially given that Google is so ready to publish any security bugs they find in other companies' software, sometimes without giving them a chance to fix the problem first.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Still,

        "If this were a bug in Facebook . . "

        You know things are bad if you have to use Facebook as a positive reference.

        1. 2Nick3 Bronze badge

          Re: Still,

          "You know things are bad if you have to use Facebook as a positive reference."

          Sounds like a new corollary of Godwin's Law (common use, not original)!

    3. Ledswinger Silver badge

      Re: Absence of evidence

      But the claim "Google know for sure no harm was done, therefore they had no obligation to tell their customers" simply isn't justified on the face of what we know.

      It's Google we're talking about. So rather than "absence of evidence", it's more a case of "abstinence of evidence.

    4. DougS Silver badge

      What else are they hiding?

      If they didn't think 500K users "met their internal thresholds" for notifying users of a breach, what is that threshold? 5 million? 500 million?

      This shows we can't even trust Google to reveal a breach of our data when it happens - and of all the platforms to have your data stolen from, Google is by far the worst due to the amount of data they have and the difficulty in avoiding them due to their advertising tentacles that extend to every corner of the web.

      So what is the GDPR penalty for this breach, and how many EU users have to be compromised for Google to be fined into bankruptcy?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What else are they hiding?

        If they did indeed shut it down in spring, then GDPR would probably not have been in effect.

        I reckon something else might still apply, but probably not that.

  5. Phil Kingston Silver badge

    Sounds like a non-trivial task to un-pick everything they put Plus' hooks into.

    1. Spazturtle Silver badge

      They are only shutting down the public side, the comment system backend will remain.

  6. Gene Cash Silver badge

    First nail in the G+ coffin...

    Was Google's absolute insistence that you had to have it, if you had an Android phone, Gmail, or YouTube. Look at when Apple put U2 on everyone's phone. Nobody likes being forced.

    Heck, IIRC Gmail became popular BECAUSE you couldn't just waltz up and get one, you had to be invited.

    1. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: First nail in the G+ coffin...

      "Look at when Apple put U2 on everyone's phone. Nobody likes being forced to listen to U2."

      FTFY

      1. Teiwaz Silver badge

        Re: First nail in the G+ coffin...

        "Look at when Apple put U2 on everyone's phone. Nobody likes being forced to listen to U2."

        Nobody should be forced feed Bonos ego, ever, against their will....

    2. ibmalone Silver badge

      Re: First nail in the G+ coffin...

      Was Google's absolute insistence that you had to have it, if you had an Android phone, Gmail, or YouTube. Look at when Apple put U2 on everyone's phone. Nobody likes being forced.

      My ability to comment on youtube videos ("oh no!" I hear you cry...) is broken by my refusal to relinquish a pre-google username that nevertheless got linked to a google plus account.

      Did find one use for google+, which was keeping in touch with people from an online course for continuing learning. (Which G+ seemed a more appropriate place for than the alternatives.)

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: First nail in the G+ coffin...

      " Look at when Apple put U2 on everyone's phone. Nobody likes being forced."

      Was it an iPhone or are you thinking of the U2 iPod. If it's the latter, you paid more for that special edition iPod and could have bought another one if you liked.

      Personally, I don't care for U2. Like many other vintage bands, they were novel when they came out, were overplayed and stagnated. Bono is too full of himself.

  7. Maya Posch

    I for one will miss Google+

    I was one of the lucky ones who got an invite for Google+ when it was still brand-new in 2011. Over the following years I would build up contacts via the network, spend hours in Hangouts with often the same groups of people, sometimes with strangers and generally found Google+ to be a very social social network. Looking back, I basically only have positive feelings for Google+, because of the people who helped shape it.

    Google+ isn't a Facebook-killer. It never was. It was shaping up to be something much more, something better and more social. Not this eternal 'look at me' setup with posts in a timeline, but with people actually hanging out and chatting in video chat rooms, holding various sessions and even tying Google+ into local TV broadcasts (like me appearing live on a Missouri TV station a few years back to talk about the topic of intersex).

    To me it feels like Google didn't understand what they had there when they took away this Hangout functionality and made it into its own thing, disconnected from Google+. That was the moment when things started drifting apart and I didn't spend nearly as much time on the service as I used to.

    I will miss Google+, but fortunately we will always have IRC :)

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: I for one will miss Google+

      I agree, very good for groups with shared interests and, by using groups, thankfully free of inane drivel

      I am not surprised site visit times are low, most of my G+ content is consumed via email as any "must read" content is configured to be emailed to me. Main use of site is settings tweaks or registering / unregistering group memberships, occasiinal browse of content I do not get emailed and only look at occasionally to catch up. I liked the way it was not in your face and it was easy to prevent message overload - as ever not happy with Googles rep for data snitching (though all groups I was on were hobby or IT related so nothing juicy for Google to snaffle)

      As with any social media site any DOB etc used to register was junk, and email addy specific to that site

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