Beck Diefenbach | Reuters
Google CEO Sundar Pichai takes the stage during the presentation of new Google hardware in San Francisco, California, U.S. October 4, 2016.
Not long ago, few companies would dream of having to come out publicly to tell customers their data had possibly been exposed but had not been stolen or misused. Disclosures of data incidents were generally saved only for the crimes that hit consumers directly in the wallet, like stolen credit card numbers or identities.
But The Wall Street Journal’s report Monday that Google may have tried to cover up a glitch that exposed the data of its Google+ social network customers shows how the wheel has turned. Google’s cover-up was meant to quell any potential calls for regulation over digital privacy, the Journal reported, and it shows how the routine, unreported privacy incidents of yesterday are increasingly getting time in the limelight.
Google eventually disclosed the bug in a blog post after the Journal’s report Monday, saying a Google+ bug exposed personal data of up to 500,000 users.
Regulators could take notice now, as they did with Uber when the company revealed a security breach that it tried to cover up with large payments in the name of a “bug bounty” to hackers who found the data. The company has paid $148 million in settlements because of this incident, which was relatively minor except for the cover-up. The Federal Trade Commission will keep an eye on the car-hailing service for 20 years because of the matter.
Meanwhile, Facebook has faced questions about its data handling that, before the Cambridge Analytica Scandal, would have seemed like a distant problem. And Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg have had to testify to Congress about its practices handling user data.
The Google+ incident doesn’t seem particularly egregious. But it will face far more stringent oversight by both the public and possibly government agencies who view anything less than total transparency with greater skepticism than ever.