Google admitted recently to keeping a major data breach from the public fearing backlash similar to the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal. This is a new headache for Google, which is already battling accusations of sacrificing Internet freedom and building AI (artificial intelligence) for military applications.
Earlier this year, Google had identified a data breach that led to the compromise of personal information of around 500,000 users of Google Plus. Details exposed to the hackers included names, genders, occupations, general locations, email addresses, photos, and relationship status. The breach was caused by a software glitch that gave outsiders access to user’s personal data for nearly three years starting from 2015. Instead of informing the public about the breach, Google chose to remain silent.
When media houses exposed Google’s stance, Senators Jerry Moran, Roger Wicker, and John Thune immediately sought an explanation from CEO Sundar Pichai. “A factor in Google’s decision not to disclose the vulnerability was fear that doing so would draw “immediate regulatory interest,” bringing Google “into the spotlight alongside or even instead of Facebook despite having stayed under radar throughout the Cambridge Analytical scandal,” and “almost [guarantee] Sundar will testify before Congress,” said the letter (The Innovation Enterprise).
Though senators gave the tech firm until October 30, 2018 to respond, Google seems to be in no mood to act on it since the company stated that it has no legal obligation to disclose anything about the glitch. Google also invited the ire of Washington after it failed to send a top executive to a Senate hearing in September.
Interestingly, Google has declared that it will wind down its Google Plus for consumers very soon. “To give people a full opportunity to transition, we will implement this wind-down over a 10-month period, slated for completion by the end of next August. Over the coming months, we will provide consumers with additional information, including ways they can download and migrate their data,” according to Google.
Google is facing one accusation after another this year as information about the company’s involvement in questionable practices came to the fore. The biggest reveal was about Project Dragonfly, a censored search engine that the company is building specifically for China. This irked many people who believe that Google is not only acting against freedom of the Internet, but is absolutely wrong in pampering to the whims of a totalitarian regime like the Chinese Communist Party.
“More business leaders are thinking beyond the next quarter, and thinking twice before diving into the Chinese market if it means turning over their intellectual property or abetting Beijing’s oppression. But more must follow suit. For example, Google should immediately end development of the Dragonfly app that will strengthen Communist Party censorship and compromise the privacy of Chinese customers,” said Mike Pence, U.S. Vice President (The Next Web).
Project Maven is another scandal that is eroding the goodwill of Google. The company will be building an AI for the U.S. military that is capable of sorting through old declassified drone footage. Though Google claims that the project does not involve harming human beings, many experts believe that the military can use the AI to eventually develop a system capable of killing people without human guidance.