Google+ vulnerability 'troubling' three top U.S. senators say

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Credit: Illustration by Tam Nguyen/ Ad Age

Three top Republican U.S. senators said that a vulnerability in the Google+ social network -- and the internet giant's reported decision not to disclose the flaw for fear of regulatory scrutiny -- are "troubling."

In a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai dated Thursday, Senators John Thune, Roger Wicker and Jerry Moran wrote that they were "especially disappointed" because Google's chief privacy officer testified on Sept. 26 before the Senate Commerce Committee, on which they all sit, "and did not take the opportunity to provide information regarding this very relevant issue." Thune chairs the panel, and Wicker and Moran head up two of its subcommittees.

On Oct. 8, Alphabet-owned Google said that in March it found what it called a years-long "software glitch" that could have exposed names, email address and other data on as many as half a million users, but decided not to tell the public. Google said it plans to shut down the service for consumers and introduce new privacy tools. The company said it found no evidence of misuse, but several lawmakers have slammed the actions, calling for the very scrutiny Google was trying to avoid.

The senate panel is planning a privacy bill in the wake of several recent data scandals. As it "works toward legislation that establishes a nationwide privacy framework to protect consumer data, improving transparency will be an essential pillar of the effort to restore Americans' faith in the services they used," the letter says.

The lawmakers asked about other incidents and requested that Google commit to revealing if it discovers evidence of misuse. The letter also asked if Google disclosed the vulnerability as part of a privacy consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission. The senators also seek a copy of an internal memo that warned about the regulatory scrutiny that would likely follow disclosure of the software glitch.

See the full letter here.

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