Me neither. But while we were blissfully ignorant of its continuing existence something predictable (and quite commonplace in 2018) happened: private user data leaked.
Here’s what happened. There was a bug that allowed hundreds of third party applications to access user’s personal data, according to a Google blog post. We’re talking user names, employers, job titles, gender, birth place and relationship status of at least half a million Google+ users, according to the Wall Street Journal.
As the Wall Street Journal points out, the bug has been around since 2015. Google says it only discovered and “immediately patched” it in March of this year — the same month Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal started to blow up. In the same blog post, Google announced it will shut down Google+ entirely.
So why are we only hearing about this now, seven months later? Don’t Google users have a right to know if their personal data was vulnerable to hackers over the last three years? Internal memos obtained the Wall Street Journal suggest Google was trying to avoid triggering “immediate regulatory interest.” In other words: avoid fines and penalties.
And there was no real reason for Google to do so. Sure, it might have had a better shot at containing the breach. But no government rules compelled the company to tell consumers right when it happened. And to do so of its own volition right when Facebook was coming under such pressure? Didn’t seem like a great PR move.
In a statement to Futurism, Google points out it’s already doing more than required. “Every year, we send millions of notifications to users about privacy and security bugs and issues. Whenever user data may have been affected, we go beyond our legal requirements and apply several criteria focused on our users in determining whether to provide notice.”
The statement continues: “Our Privacy & Data Protection Office reviewed this issue, looking at the type of data involved, whether we could accurately identify the users to inform, whether there was any evidence of misuse, and whether there were any actions a developer or user could take in response. None of these thresholds were met in this instance.”
Google claims that it found “no evidence that any developer was aware of this bug, or abusing the API,” after a thorough, “root-and-branch review of third-party developer access” investigation. No one got hurt, so we’re all cool, right? Right?
Is it just me, or does it feel like our personal data is being leaked on almost a weekly basis? Just two weeks ago, hackers got into 50 million Facebook accounts. One notable difference: the security issue was discovered just three days earlier by Facebook’s engineering team, according to an official blog post. Guess Facebook learned something from Cambridge Analytica, after all.
Now what? Well, now the lawsuits. Ars Technica reports that California residents and Google+ users have filed the first class-action lawsuit in a federal court in San Francisco. The argument: Google knowingly made “a calculated decision not to inform users that their Personal Information was compromised,” according to the complaint, as Ars Technica reported.
And Google may have to contend with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It requires companies to notify affected users of a personal data breach “without undue delay and, where, feasible, not later than 72 hours after having become aware of it,” according to Article 33 — a far shot from the seven months it took Google.
Not complying with that rule could actually hurt Google: fines of up to two percent of annual global revenue. It’s been hit with these kinds of fines before, specifically one of $5 billion in May in response to reportedly violating antitrust laws on Android phones (the company has challenged the decision).
But as TechCrunch points out, Google might not have violated GDPR after all: the bug was found in March, but GDPR went into effect two months later. Since the law is still new and EU member countries are still figuring out how to enforce it, Google may find itself in a regulatory gray area.
Like all companies faced with a breach like this, Google is doing a little introspection. Google claims it’s clamping down on third-party access to consumer Gmail data, and allowing users to give and revoke permissions to those third-parties — a positive step for sure.
But if you still feel wary, well, we don’t blame you. Google knew about the leak for so darn long before it decided to reveal its existence. The fact that it couldn’t find any evidence of misuse is little consolation.
As data breaches like these become more frequent and reveal more information, lawmakers are starting to pay attention, giving data privacy laws a much-needed second look. Consumers have a right to know if their data is ending up in hands they might not have authorized. If companies like Google are not being held accountable, they may never even learn about it.
More on data leaks: Breaking: Hackers Accessed 50 Million Facebook Accounts
- Upcoming Space Hotel to Be “Like a Small Cruise Ship” - January 13th, 2019
- Just 41 Percent of Americans Support Advancing AI - January 13th, 2019
- Former Senator Wants Congress to Listen to UFO Reports - January 13th, 2019
- Google Brain Built a Translator so AI Can Explain Itself - January 13th, 2019
- Universal Internet Access Is at Least 30 Years Away, Say Experts - January 13th, 2019
- Astronomers May Have Just Spotted the Birth of a Black Hole - January 13th, 2019
- MIT Is Pouring Resources Into Commercializing Fusion Power - January 13th, 2019
- DARPA Wants to Build Conscious Robots Using Insect Brains - January 13th, 2019
- Surprise Announcement: SpaceX to Lay off 10 Percent of Workforce - January 13th, 2019
- One of the Closest Exoplanets to Earth Could Support Alien Life - January 13th, 2019
- A Black Hole Inhaled a Star. Then It Started to Shrink - January 13th, 2019
- Denmark Is Building Nine Gigantic Artificial Islands - January 13th, 2019
- Scientists Are Building a Quantum Computer That “Acts Like a Brain” - January 13th, 2019
- Scientists: Warming Oceans Will Lead to “Catastrophic” Future - January 13th, 2019
- New Technique Makes Electricity-Producing Bacteria More Useful Than Ever - January 13th, 2019
- Researchers Found the Blueprint for Plant Immune Systems - January 13th, 2019
- Russia’s Only Space Telescope Has Stopped Responding to Commands - January 13th, 2019
- Harvard Astronomer Predicts What First Alien Contact Will Be Like - January 13th, 2019
- A New Class of Drugs Could Make Safer Sleeping Pills - January 13th, 2019
- Researchers Repurposed CRISPR to Help Develop Better Antibiotics - January 13th, 2019
- Artificial intelligence - Wikipedia - January 3rd, 2019
- Online Artificial Intelligence Courses | Microsoft ... - January 3rd, 2019
- What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)? - Definition from ... - January 3rd, 2019
- Artificial Intelligence: The Robots Are Now Hiring - WSJ - January 3rd, 2019
- What is AI (artificial intelligence)? - Definition from ... - January 3rd, 2019
- Artificial Intelligence - Journal - Elsevier - January 3rd, 2019
- Benefits & Risks of Artificial Intelligence - Future of Life ... - January 3rd, 2019
- A.I. Artificial Intelligence - Wikipedia - January 3rd, 2019
- Artificial Intelligence: The Pros, Cons, and What to Really Fear - January 3rd, 2019
- A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) - IMDb - January 3rd, 2019
- Edible Coating Can Keep Food Fresh Longer and Cut Down on Waste - January 3rd, 2019
- Bill Gates: U.S. Leaders Must Embrace Nuclear Energy - January 3rd, 2019
- Spain Shuts Down 26 Unprofitable Coal Mines - January 3rd, 2019
- The Moons of Jupiter and Saturn Could Have Earth-Like Tidal Waves - January 3rd, 2019
- An Astronaut Accidentally Dialed 911 in Space - January 3rd, 2019
- Tiny Robots That Repair Pipes Could Eliminate Road Work - January 3rd, 2019
- Here’s NASA’s Newly-Released Image of Ultima Thule - January 3rd, 2019
- Astronomers Find First-of-Its-Kind Protostar With a “Warped” Disk - January 3rd, 2019
- NASA Scientist: Asteroid Deflection Mission Not Like “Armageddon” - January 3rd, 2019
- A Drill Built for Mars Will Probe Antarctic Bedrock - January 3rd, 2019
- Tesla’s Stock Plummets After It Cuts Price of All Models - January 3rd, 2019
- Nearly a Third of Norway’s 2018 New Car Sales Were Electric - January 3rd, 2019
- FCC Clears Google To Pursue “Minority Report”-Like Gesture System - January 3rd, 2019
- U.S. Plan to Restrict AI Exports Could Backfire - January 3rd, 2019
- A Wireless Neural Implant Might Jolt the Brain out of Seizures - January 3rd, 2019
- This Facial Recognition App Remembers Names so You Don’t Have To - January 3rd, 2019
- Hyundai Debuts a Walking Car With Four Legs - January 3rd, 2019
- Futuristic Hotel Suite Would Drive You Around While You Sleep - January 3rd, 2019
- China Just Landed a Rover on the Far Side of the Moon - January 3rd, 2019
- This Startup Wants to Send a Pregnant Woman to Space to Give Birth - January 3rd, 2019
- Elon Musk Thinks the First Mars Settler Could Be an AI - January 1st, 2019
- Leaked Documents Show How Facebook Controls Speech Across the Globe - January 1st, 2019
- Gov Shutdown Means 95 Percent of NASA Employees Aren’t At Work - January 1st, 2019
- Scientists to Test New Cancer Treatment on Human Patients in 2019 - January 1st, 2019
- Holograms Are Resurrecting Dead Musicians, Raising Legal Questions - January 1st, 2019
- New Theory: The Universe is a Bubble, Inflated by Dark Energy - January 1st, 2019
- Poll: Two Thirds of Americans Support Human Gene Editing to Cure Disease - January 1st, 2019
- Foreign Cyberattack Cripples Major U.S. Newspapers - January 1st, 2019
- Demand for Combustion Engine Cars May Have Peaked in 2018 - January 1st, 2019
- Scientist Who Gene Edited Babies Is Being Held By Mysterious Guards - January 1st, 2019
- Washington May Become the First State to Legalize Human Composting - January 1st, 2019
- NASA Clears “Dream Chaser” Space Cargo Plane For Full-Scale Production - January 1st, 2019
- Rerouting Nerves During Amputation May Reduce Phantom Limb Pain - January 1st, 2019
- Experts: Stop Adding Cancer-Causing Chemicals to our Meats - January 1st, 2019
- Google Wins Lawsuit Over Facial Recognition Technology - January 1st, 2019
- Tiny Robots That Repair Pipes Could Eliminate Road Work - January 1st, 2019
- Edible Coating Can Keep Food Fresh Longer and Cut Down on Waste - January 1st, 2019
- Bill Gates: U.S. Leaders Must Embrace Nuclear Energy - January 1st, 2019
- The EU Is Banning Almost All Coal Mining on Jan 1 - January 1st, 2019
- Stem cell - January 1st, 2019
- Stem Cell Therapy - Get Back To Your Life | Stem Cell Centers - January 1st, 2019
- Stem Cell Treatment | Arizona | Stem Cell Rejuvenation Center - January 1st, 2019
- Stem cell - Wikipedia - January 1st, 2019
- Stem Cell Therapy for Anti-Aging and Sexual Performance ... - January 1st, 2019
- NSI Stem Cell | What Is Stem Cell Therapy? - January 1st, 2019
- Stem Cell Therapy for Osteoarthritis - StemGenex - January 1st, 2019
- Stem Cell Research & Therapy | Home page - January 1st, 2019
- Stem Cells in Milwaukee, WI | Wisconsin Stem Cell Therapy - January 1st, 2019
- Stem Cell Therapy for Arthritis - January 1st, 2019
- National Stem Cell Centers | Stem Cell Therapy in New York ... - January 1st, 2019