Google Plus to Shut Down: What Small Businesses Need to Know

Google is shutting down Google+ as a social network, effective August 31, 2019.

Google made the announcement on October 8, the same day as a Wall Street Journal story outlining that the data of a half million users was exposed.  Google knew about the security issue back in March 2018, but elected not to disclose it to users.

Within hours of the story, Google came out with an announcement acknowledging the issue, but defending its actions.  In the same announcement it said it was closing Google+ down in 10 months’ time.

Google Vice President Ben Smith said in a statement that the data was exposed through an API used by third party apps.  An API is a technical means of transferring data from one software program to another.

About the Google+ Security Breach

Google downplayed the impact of the security breach, stating it was due to a software bug. Here are key points:

  • It says the security bug was limited to a small number of Google+ profile fields marked non-public. Those fields include name, email address, occupation, gender and age.
  • The breach “does not include any other data you may have posted or connected to Google+ or any other service, like Google+ posts, messages, Google account data, phone numbers or G Suite content,” according to Smith.  G Suite content, of course, refers to G Suite users’ email, calendar, and stored files. Many small businesses use G Suite (formerly called Google Apps for Business). So it’s good to know your company’s sensitive communications were not affected.
  • Google says it disovered and patched the bug back in March.
  • Google can’t tell which users were affected, because it claims to keep log data for only two weeks.
  • However, it estimates that 500,000 users using 438 different apps were affected.

Google Plus to Shut Down: What Small Businesses Need to Know

Google+ will remain open until August 31, 2019.

However, you might want to consider leaving sooner rather than later if you use it for marketing purposes. Smith revealed how the network has shrunk, admitting it has “low usage.” Over 90% of its sessions are less than five seconds!

Google Plus launched in 2011. Activity has declined noticeably in recent years.  Google+ is widely considered a failure for Google.

And what if you have original posts and images on Google Plus that you want to save?  Smith says Google will provide instructions in the coming months for how to download and migrate files.

Google plans to continue to offer an enterprise-only version of Google+. The company says there’s value as a private network within organizations.

Small businesses should take these steps to prepare for the Google Plus shutdown:

  • Make a plan to remove Google+ share / follow buttons from your website and blog.
  • Plan to phase out social activity on Google+ such as sharing content and commenting.
  • In you run a Community on Google+, make plans to migrate it to a different platform. Facebook and LinkedIn Groups are two obvious choices.  Set up a new group somewhere else. Notify members of the transition date so they can move over. People may assume Google+ is shutting down immediately.  Don’t wait if you want an orderly transition.
  • If you have developed a proprietary software app that works with Google data, become familiar with Google’s new API and data sharing policies.
  • Pick up the pace of content sharing activity on other social networks. For instance, we’ve found that motivational quotes work well on Google+. So we’ll be experimenting to find an alternative platform for motivational content.

Do a Check Up on Your Google Security

Google says it is paying even more attention to privacy and security. Now is a good time to check your privacy and security settings in all your Google apps, including your Google account, GMail and more.

Photo via Shutterstock

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