from the how-many-projects-have-they-shuttered? dept.
Google is shutting down much of its social network, Google+, after user data was left exposed. It said a bug in its software meant information that people believed was private had been accessible by third parties. Google said up to 500,000 users had been affected.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the company knew about the issue in March but did not disclose it. The WSJ quoted an internal Google memo that said doing so would draw "immediate regulatory interest".
In a statement, the firm said the issue was not serious enough to inform the public. "Our Privacy and 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 here."
Google is set to begin deleting data from its beleaguered social network, Google+ in April, but before that happens, the Internet Archive and the ArchiveTeam say that they are working to preserve public posts on the platform before they vanish forever.
In a post on Reddit, the sites announced that they had begun their efforts to archive the posts using scripts to capture and back up the data in an effort to preserve it. The teams say that their efforts will only encompass posts that are currently available to the public: they won't be able to back up posts that are marked private or deleted. They also urge people who don't want their content to be archived to delete their accounts, and pointed to a procedure to request the removal of specific content. They also note that they won't be able to capture everything: comment threads have a limit of 500 comments, "but only presents a subset of these as static HTML. It's not clear that long discussion threads will be preserved." They also say that images and video won't be preserved at full resolution.
Related: Google+ Shut Down After Data Breach and Cover-Up are Exposed
Senators Demand Answers About Google+ Breach; Project Dragonfly Undermines Google's Neutrality
Google+ Bug Exposes Non-Public Profile Data for 52 Million Users
Death of Google+ Causing Angst
Republican Senators Demand Answers about Google+ Cover-up
takyon: Three Senators have written a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai requesting responses to several questions about the recent Google+ breach.
How Google's China Project Undermines its Claims to Political Neutrality
Submitted via IRC for chromas
The company's official position on content moderation remains political neutrality, a spokeswoman told me in an email:
Google is committed to free expression — supporting the free flow of ideas is core to our mission. Where we have developed our own content policies, we enforce them in a politically neutral way. Giving preference to content of one political ideology over another would fundamentally conflict with our goal of providing services that work for everyone.
Of course, it's impossible to read the report or Google's statement without considering Project Dragonfly. According to Ryan Gallagher's ongoing reporting at The Intercept, Google's planned Chinese search engine will enable anything but the free flow of ideas. Even in an environment where American users are calling for tech platforms to limit users' freedoms in exchange for more safety and security, many still recoil at the idea of a search engine that bans search terms in support of an authoritarian regime.
And that's the unresolvable tension at the heart of this report. Almost all of us would agree that some restrictions on free speech are necessary. But few of us would agree on what those restrictions should be. Being a good censor — or at least, a more consistent censor — is within Google's grasp. But being a politically neutral one is probably impossible.