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The Google+ Bug Is More About The Cover-Up Than The Crime

EFF: “Earlier this week, Google dropped a bombshell: in March, the company discovered a “bug” in its Google+ API that allowed third-party apps to access private data from its millions of users. The company confirmed that at least 500,000 people were “potentially affected.” Google’s mishandling of data was bad. But its mishandling of the aftermath was worse. Google should have told the public as soon as it knew something was wrong, giving users a chance to protect themselves and policymakers a chance to react. Instead, amidst a torrent of outrage over the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, Google decided to hide its mistakes from the public for over half a year…”

…What would this bug look like in practice? Suppose Alice is friends with Bob on Google+. Alice has shared personal information with her friends, including her occupation, relationship status, and email. Then, her friend Bob decides to connect to a third-party app. He is prompted to give that app access to his own data, plus “public information” about his friends, and he clicks “ok.” Before March, the app would have been granted access to all the details—not marked public—that Alice had shared with Bob. Similar to Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, a bad API made it possible for third parties to access private data about people who never had a chance to consent…”

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