Tag Archive | "Shutdown"

Google Plus Announces It Will Shutdown After Reportedly Compromising 500,000 User Accounts

Google recently announced that it is shutting down Google+, with the service expected to cease operating by Nov. 2019. The announcement came on the heels of a report that an API bug exposed the profile data of 500,000 Google users using 438 different apps. However, Google claims the issue had been resolved back in March.

The decision to phase out Google+ came after Google launched a review of third-party developer access at the start of the year. The review apparently proved what the company had already known—that consumers and developers are not that interested in the platform. The service reportedly has “low usage and engagement,” with the majority of user sessions lasting less than five seconds.

What Happens to Google+ Now?

Google+ users will have ample time to transition. The phase-out is expected to be completed by August 2019 and the company will be releasing additional information in the next few months on how to migrate data.

However, Google intends to keep Google+ open for enterprise customers. But it will be rolling out new features to keep its enterprise version more secure and effective.

Aside from announcing its phase-out of Google+, the company also said its other services will be receiving privacy adjustments. Some of these adjustments include changes to API that will curtail developers’ access to user data on Gmail and Android. The changes will also ensure that developers won’t be receiving call logs and SMS permissions. Contact and basic interaction data from the Android Contacts API will also be blocked.

Keeping Things Quiet

While the security vulnerability occurred several months ago, it was only revealed recently in a Wall Street Journal report which said the breach exposed information like name, age, gender, occupation, and email address of users who listed their profile as private.

In a blog post, Google explained its decision not to reveal the issue to users.

According to Ben Smith, Google’s Vice President of Engineering, the company did not find any evidence of anyone accessing the profile data. There was also no evidence that the API was abused or that any developer was aware of the bug. Google’s “Privacy & Data Protection Office” also evaluated the issue and decided that none of the “thresholds” they were looking for were met.

Experts say that there’s no legal requirement that obliges Google to reveal the security vulnerability. However, Google’s decision to keep things quiet and a memo shared to the Journal warning senior executives against disclosing the existence of the bug will undoubtedly raise privacy and security questions again.

[Feature image via Google]

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Quantifying the Impact of Google’s Keyword Referral Data Shutdown

Posted by randfish

On Tuesday, October 18th, Google announced they'd be hiding search referral data for logged-in Google searchers. When questioned by Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineLand, Google provided the following estimate on the impact to search referral data:

"Google software engineer Matt Cutts, who’s been involved with the privacy changes, wouldn’t give an exact figure but told me he estimated even at full roll-out, this would still be in the single-digit percentages of all Google searchers on Google.com"

Tragically, it appears that Cutts was either misinformed or gave misleading information, as "(not provided)" became a major referrer for many websites, climbing into double digits in early November. Now, that percentage has risen even higher, into the 20%+ range on many sites. Hubspot's Brian Whalley reported that the average website using their analytics lost 11.36% of keyword referral data and 423 sites lost more than 20% (15 unlucky souls lost 50%+, which seems almost crazy).

In an attempt to better quantify the impact, we ran a small survey last week, asking fellow marketers to supply information about the impact to their sites.

Here's a visualization of 60 sites' analytics data, showing the self-reported percent of their Google search traffic that used keyword "(not provided)":

Avg # of Not Provided Keywords from Google

Our average in the 6 days from Nov. 4-10 almost exactly matches the average of the several thousand Hubspot customers (11.36% vs. 12.02%), and thus makes me feel pretty good about that data from the survey-takers.

A little more about these 60 respondents:

  • We collected 66 finished surveys, but scrubbed 6 that had missing, suspicious or improperly filled-out information
  • The types of sites reporting data included a wide variety, as illustrated below:
    Keyword Referral Sites
  • The sites included in the survey also included a solid variety of traffic numbers. The distribution below reports visits from Google organic search recorded in October, 2011:
    Keyword Referral Survey Sites' Traffic
  • We asked the respondents what level of impact this change had on their content and marketing efforts, and received the following distribution of replies:
    Impact of keyword referral encryption

Approximately 1/5th of those surveyed reported no impact on their content/marketing efforts, which likely suggests those folks don't typically use keyword-level data to help them improve OR the change hasn't cost them enough data to have a negative impact. Another 1/5th claimed a strong impact, which is likely how I'd describe this change for our internal efforts. Granted, we don't actively use this data every week, but we've relied on it heavily for reporting and in the past for audits around content optimization and the generation of new content (or updating/refreshing of old material).

Here's numbers and a visualization of the referrer encryption data specifically for SEOmoz.org:

Google's keyword referral impact on SEOmoz

From Oct. 19th – 30th, Google sent 163,909 visits from organic search to our website. 3,762 of those visits, or 2.3%, were via keyword "(not provided)". We didn't sweat this too much. As per Matt Cutts' promise, it was in single digits and, while frustrating, had a very tiny impact on our analytics, marketing and content optimization efforts.

But from Oct. 31st to November 13th, Google sent 191,726 visits and 35,168 of these came via keyword "(not provided)," 18.34%. This has a serious impact on our ability to make our website better for visitors (in particular, identifying keywords that are sending traffic but potentially not having a great experience that we should be making new blog posts, videos, updates, etc. to help).

To me, that's the most tragic part of this change. The underselling of the change as being "single digits" was lame. The hypocrisy around keyword privacy sucks. And their motivations are questionable at best. But the crummiest part is the impact the change will have. It won't put any black hats out of business, won't stop any malware or hacking, and won't add a shred of value to the Internet. But it will make it harder for marketers and site builders to measure, understand and improve for their audience. The net impact will be a slightly worse web, and Google's claim of privacy will only protect them from criticism because it's a far easier explanation than the truth.

Sometimes, it sucks living in an ecosystem with an 800-pound gorilla.

p.s. Google's Matt Cutts responded to this post on Twitter today. I've included his comments and my replies below:

Matt Cutts' replies

I remain somewhat skeptical that all the sites in Hubspot's data and ours would be outliers, but perhaps, at the least, this suggest the referral data disappearance won't get massively worse. Here's to hoping.

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