In 2018 there was a major scandal regarding google engineers that discovered a software leakage which led to over five million users’ data being compromised. Google got a lot of air time on tv and nobody cut the slack on them and rightfully so- big companies such as Google should not make mistakes like this. Because of what had happened, people were skeptical about the privacy levels within Google+, which in turn lead to the shutting down of the Google+ social network on the 2nd of April 2019.

This affected Google’s reputation massively, as the trust in Google had been tested and failed drastically. This trust issue affects all of those who use Google as a search engine, Gmail, Docs, or even google drive.

The beginning

The harvesting and hoarding of personal data were first noticed by producers in march 2018 during a review of another google related Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal. The bug, however, was supposedly fixed immediately, but it was estimated that over 500,000 Google private users’ data had been open to the public. Can you imagine all the private information that people put on into their services, only for it to be breached and violated so that anyone can access it? I would personally be devastated.

Supposed fixing?

Due to the breach of data previously, consumers demanded greater protection online and safety for Google to gain the trust of consumers again. This is when they shut down Google+ in April 2019. It was apparent to Google that they had messed up their firewall, and extra security needed to be paramount as the impact of the breach leads to sharing prices falling by 1% to $1,157.06 and that wasn’t the worst of it- it then went down as low as 2.1% in two days on October 2018. However, it then steadily increased from that point and was able to make ends meet in February 2019.

What happened to the users with data?

When preparing to shut down Google+, a 10-month period was created for consumers to download and take their data elsewhere. Google+ users had data in the form of photos, videos, events, posts, and communities that had to be relocated, and events that were initially created in Google+ had been deleted off Google Calendar. However, photos and videos that are backed up to Google Photos were not deleted but merely moved away as Google photos was not the one being shut down after all. After the 10-month period, consumers’ accounts and information were deleted and forgotten about, and will never be able to have access to it again as it is gone for good. However, if there was content that was protected and needed for law, regulations, legal processes, or government requests, these were retained for their respective purposes. The shutting down process took a few months as Google+ had a substantial number of users and it was working progress, but Google has ensured that you are no longer able to create a new Google+ profile.

Support and safety in VPN

A VPN is a virtual private network that gives you online privacy and anonymity by creating a private network from a public internet connection. The data is encrypted and secure to provide greater privacy, even more than a secured Wi-Fi hotspot. There are even vps hosting companies that provide an extra level of security. These safety measures may be able to keep you steered clear of further data leaks and work as a backup for any internal breaches that may be encountered.

Precautions to take

Data leaks affect all of us. This is because it can happen to anybody using any software or search engine, it is definitely not exclusive to Google to be suffering a data breach- in fact, Apple had a similar issue with celebrities getting their iCloud’s hacked and all their personal photos and information being leaked on to the internet. Many people expect these high-profile companies to protect you but they also make mistakes, and people should be aware that their data is always vulnerable to a leak regardless. That’s why people need to take measures into their own hands and keep themselves protected- and a way of doing so is making sure that you regularly change passwords. Once a month will be sufficient and be sure to use different credentials for every site.

Why you may be thinking? Well, if your data such as username and password get leaked from a website and if that data is the exact same as another website you made an account for, then the hacker is in for a treat as they are getting two accounts for the price of one. So, it is imperative to ensure that your passwords are kept secure, private, and regularly changed so that it is hard to identify and leak.

Hackers are everywhere

Make sure you are not clicking on links that seem too good to be true or dodgy. Hackers using a form of scamming called phishing where they can gain access to your data and cause a possible leak by you clicking on a link and controlling your account. Do not click links you are not sure about! Always write out the link yourself if you believe it is not a legitimate link to a website. Don’t forget to stay safe, we are all prone to a data leak!

By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.