Google announced on Monday (Oct. 8) that it plans to shut down the consumer version of its Google+ social network over the next 10 months. In a blog post, Google disclosed that the social network has low usage and that 90% of user sessions last less than five seconds. It will live on as a “secure corporate social network” for businesses, said Google, adding that it will share more news about the enterprise version of Google+ in coming days.
Google’s decision follows the Wall Street Journal’s revelation also published on Oct. 8, that the company exposed hundreds of thousands of Google+ users’ data earlier this year, and opted to keep it a secret:
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, according to the documents and people briefed on the incident. A memo reviewed by the Journal 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.
Google framed the closure as part of a wider effort, called Project Strobe, to protect users’ data and give users more control over what user information the company shares with outside developers. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Project Strobe task force includes more than 100 product managers, engineers, and lawyers and “has in recent months conducted a companywide audit of the company’s APIs.”
In addition to shutting down the consumer version of Google+, the company announced it will be offering users more specific options regarding how much data they share with different apps: “For example, if a developer requests access to both calendar entries and Drive documents, you will be able to choose to share one but not the other.” Google is also limiting developers’ access to SMS, call log, and Gmail data, just months after the Wall Street Journal exposed how common it was for developers to read users’ Gmail messages.