A vulnerability in Google’s software has led to the potential exposure of information belonging to half a million accounts on its social network, Google+, the company acknowledged on Monday – to which many people joked: care?
It’s a logical trap. Do not fall into the trap.
The idea that Google+ is an ancient relic of a bygone era is irrelevant. What is relevant is that at some point millions of people were persuaded to create accounts on Google+, accounts that still exist today, accounts that eventually became a danger to their owners – unbeknownst to them – years after Google+ ceased to be an important social or cultural tool. phenomenon.
It’s a story about the digital trash we create and quickly forget and how easily it can come back to haunt us.
For a while, Google made creating a Google+ profile so convenient that you couldn’t create a new Gmail account without also signing up for the company’s social platform. Only those who were very careful could really avoid it. By now, you might have your own Google+ profile without even realizing it. It may be linked to your current Google Account, or perhaps an old Google Account that you no longer use, such as a college email address. (Here’s how to tell if you have a Google+ profile – and if so, how to delete it.)
Google created Google+ in 2011, at a time when the web was becoming increasingly social. That same year, Twitter was recognized for its role in mass protests in the Middle East and North Africa. Google was under increasing pressure to come up with its own social product and demonstrate that it was as sustainable as Facebook.
Signing people up for Google+ while creating a general Google account seemed like an effective and competitive growth tactic: in 2012, Google boasted of having 90 million Google+ users. Google struggled to answer questions about the depth of engagement of these users, but at least it could pretend it had an answer to Facebook.
Today, Google recognizes that hardly anyone really uses Google+ yet; of consumers who actually visit the site, 90% leave after five seconds or less, according to the company’s blog on Monday. But just because no one is active on the product doesn’t mean the accounts no longer exist. Google said that so far it has found no evidence that Google+ profile data has been misused.
Which brings us to the central point: the popularity of Google+ is a distraction when you think of Google+ as part of a consumer’s broader “attack surface” – the range of possible entry points allowing a hacker to collect information that could then be misused against a victim. The more accounts you have, the larger your digital footprint and the larger your attack surface.
That’s why the Google+ bug is no laughing matter. Dormant accounts represent a potential point of failure, whether you find value in them or not.
Imagine if Facebook and Twitter fell into disuse tomorrow. Seven years later, they announce that millions of accounts may have leaked information. Would you laugh because everyone is on another social network now?
© The Washington Post 2018