Payments Begin For Google Plus Lawsuit

The corpse that is Google+ (or Google Plus) has given its final twitch, after aggrieved parties of a 2018 data breach began to receive their lawsuit payouts this week.

The Google+ social network had at one stage been intended to rival the mighty Facebook (despite Google’s claims to the contrary) when it was launched in June 2011.

Initial customer uptake seemed promising, but the truth was that the network never came close to matching the number of users that Facebook enjoyed.

Life and death

Indeed, as Facebook’s growth continued unchecked over the decade, it seemed that Google+ was being quietly retired by the search engine giant, despite a facelift in 2015 as Google sought to shift the focus away from people and more towards personal interests and communities.

Despite the facelift, Google+ struggled to attract new users outside of a dedicated fanbase, and in October 2018 Google finally announced it was shutting down Google+ (for consumers) because of low user engagement.

Google+ was replaced by Google Currents, a social magazine app that again doesn’t seem to have made much of an impact.

Data breach

Google at the time of the shuttering announcement, cited the platform’s low usage as the reason for closing down the network, but in reality Google had been in hot water over its decision not to reveal a data breach in Google+ in 2018 that had exposed the private data of up to 500,000 users, to hundreds of third-party app developers.

Google did not disclose the breach for months, and even US senators asked Google to explain why it had delayed disclosing the vulnerabilities.

Such was the pressure on Google that in December 2018 it announced it was accelerating the “sunsetting” (i.e forced retirement) of Google+, after the discovery of a fresh bug.

Google+ had originally been scheduled for consumer shutdown in August 2019, but that deadline was pushed up to 2 April 2019.

Breach lawsuit

As was inevitable, Google was sued over the data breach matter in the United States, and in August 2020 Google agreed to a $7.5 million settlement, that would only pay a maximum of $12 per person.

The $7.5 million payout has had to be split between victims and lawyers.

A condition for a payout was the user had to be a US resident who had a personal Google+ account at any point between 1 January 2015 and 2 April 2019 (when the app was shut down).

The website for the class-action lawsuit stated this week that payments would begin.

Some 1,720,029 users had applied to receive a share of the settlement, and they will now receive a very modest $2.15 each.

However the four people who brought the legal challenge in the first place will get up to $1,500 each.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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