Even the biggest tech giants are prone to mistakes. While it was far from being the most popular social media platform, Google+ shut down will impact more than 352 million users who have used the service because it was tied with other Google products. Additionally, Alphabet Inc. announced that more than 52 million G+ users were affected by the new vulnerability of the platform, and had their personal data leaked to developers, apps, and other entities using the Google API.
The problem with even the largest tech companies not being able to protect their user’s privacy at all times has only emphasized the need for individuals to think about their digital privacy and cybersecurity themselves. We cannot rely on others to be our first and last line of defense. The mantra of personal safety online should be ‘’redundancy’’.
Regardless if you are a YouTube creator, a designer on DeviantArt, or just a humble meme farmer, your data should be secured on an external hard drive as well as on the cloud. And, if you don’t want to share your data with your projects, then you need an updated system security and a premium VPN to keep you safe from snoopers. Thankfully, professional VPN providers like Le VPN can give excellent speeds and even better protection on all devices, and with simple to use apps.
Are You Safe?
If you are venturing to the internet unprotected, it is not the question of ‘’if’’ your data will be collected, but ‘’when’’. From governments, corporations, and various public institutions, to hackers, identity thieves, and malicious software, everyone is in the fight for your data.
That being said, if you were careful about leaving your info around, and don’t see any symptoms, you are probably still safe. And, even if there is some of your data collected right now, this doesn’t mean that you will be the victim of identity theft the same day. The important thing is to act as soon as you can to protect any data that might be at risk and to do so on all of your devices.
The process of protecting yourself is quite simple. You only need to scrub your personal info from any social media and sharing site that might be in plain view and switch to using a VPN for all of your connections. This will keep you anonymous and impossible for hackers and corpos to match your physical data with your digital footprint. Lack of data should make the information harder to misuse, whatever the purpose.
Is Your Content Safe?
There are two types of data that you should be concerned with when it comes to Google. The first is your basic data. This type of data is usually regarded as personal safety, as it is the part of who you are.
The second type is the content you consume or create online. From personal posts, selfies, and tweets, to produced videos, music, and art; this is the content that you want to share with people online. If you are using a Google+ API, this content should be backed up and secured on a solid drive, as it may become unavailable as soon as April 2019. For all consumer Google users, there is a possibility that all of their data will be removed due to the servers shutting down.
Alphabet Inc, Google, and Google+
Most consumers are unaware that Alphabet Inc. has been a parent company to Google since 2015 when the company was restructured. This is an important distinction because only successful products tested by other subsidiaries of Alphabet Inc. are introduced under the Google brand, in the effort to keep the image of the brand intact.
Google+ launched four years prior to this restructuring, is probably one of the best examples of something Google wanted to hide for a long time, and that is that the company itself is far from being infallible. Even though the platform officially has more users than the population of the United States, less than 1 in 3 users are active, and this is only because the service is connected to other Google products, mostly YouTube and Chrome.
By all metrics, G+ was a major failure as a social media platform. It was widely criticized and ridiculed from its inception. What was beneficial with this platform is its purpose as a hub between different Google applications programming interfaces, or APIs.
The list of Google APIs is quite extensive. From abusive experience reporting to fitness activities to tag managers, there is a whole set of services web developers depend on to make their products streamline with the expected user experience. Thankfully, for professional users and companies, most of these products will be unchanged, as they will be able to keep their same overview as they currently have provided that they use the G Suite service.
In his blog post, David Thacker explained that the company has decided to push forward the Google+ shut down for individual users, and regrets the implications this will have on developers, but stresses that user data safety is their prime concern. As disclosed to The Verge, he stated that there is no evidence that any developer misused the vulnerability of the Google+ bug to collect personal data.
The issue falls out as Google was one of the few companies that didn’t have major security issues in the past. This problem made Google join the ranks with Facebook, that is still recovering from the Cambridge Analytica scandal in March 2018.
How does Google+ Shut Down Impact YouTube?
Unless you are using Google API services connected to your Google+ account to share or otherwise affect your content, the Google+ shutdown will in no way impact your experience on YouTube, even if you are a creator.
With the restructuring of Google into Alphabet Inc, YouTube became a separate company and currently doesn’t require a G+ account to use their services.
Even those who have created their YouTube accounts as extensions of their Google accounts have been using separate platforms for several years now.
How does Google+ Shut Down Impact Chrome?
Thankfully, no. For all individual users, any Google+ APIs that were used by Chrome are already transferred to a dedicated Google(no plus) account. This is also the case for any Gmail accounts and services such as Google Drive, or the passwords you have saved on your account.
There is a slight difference for developers and companies that use Google+ Sign-in feature, as the company has announced that it will be shut down with the platform. If you are a developer, it is suggested that you should migrate to a more comprehensive Google(no plus) Sign-in system.
Tech Giant Vulnerability
Although the issue with leaks from a company such as Google has taken many by surprise, there seem to be no larger consequences on the users. The biggest take one should get from this is to emphasize the need to protect ourselves when it comes to putting our data on the internet. As is the case IRL, no one can be more concerned about our safety and privacy than we are.
The good thing is that obtaining good internet security is not hard at all. Professional VPN providers like Le VPN offer a wide range of services in addition to a virtual private network, not to mention that there are multiple reasons why you would want to use a VPN in the first place.
For most people, their laptop or desktop is not their primary devices. If you are using your smartphone for most of your communication and browsing, then you will need to have a VPN installed on these devices as well. Smartphones are even more susceptible to attacks as they rely on cloud-based apps for many of their functions, and these apps are usually where leaks are created.
What was the Google+ Bug?
Unlike most leaks in the past, and especially those made by Facebook affiliated companies in 2018, this issue with the leaks has been reported by Google themselves, and well after the problem was patched and closed. As far as we currently know, nobody was directly impacted by the bug, apart from the general fall of trust for the company.
The bug, as reported by Google, has allowed certain app developers and other professional users to access personal Google+ data using an API. This user data wasn’t available in plain text but was visible to software even without permission from the user.
The biggest problem here is that most Google+ users don’t even remember which information they have provided to the platform, with many still holding their personal address, full name, as well as their primary phone number still on record.
In the case that you have ever posted your primary phone number online, the only way to change this is to acquire a different phone number and to transfer all of your 2-step verification to that number instead. And then never share that number with anyone, but think of it as your dedicated password phone.
Google+ Impacts Business Activity
Different from individual users, the disappearance of Google+ will somewhat impact professional users and companies. First of all, it will disable many of what Google is calling ‘’Legacy APIs’’ that were used with the platform either as extensions or as tools.
The most commonly used tools from this set are Google Pages and the Google Android SDK, as they were crucial for online advertisement and the creation of smartphone applications for Android devices.
On the bright side, Google has made most of these features available through their new API formats, which can be tested by companies and developers that join the Google Group using their account detail.
One of the concerns that have remained unmentioned by Google is the impact the shutdown of Google+ will have on SEO results for articles and pages. Formerly, most online publishers included a dedicated +1 button (comparable to a Facebook ‘’like” button) which automatically shared the post with all Google+ contacts. This button had a major impact on the page’s SEO score and advanced the content’s ranking on Google’s search engine.
It is currently unknown how this content will be affected, and if some other item will be used instead of the current format. Google realizes that giving too much information in this field will disclose a lot about the functions of their search engine, and probably give way for some to fool the algorithms to propel their content.
Backing up Your Data
Regardless of what might be the future of Google and their services, it is a smart idea to have all of your data backed up. This doesn’t only apply to companies and creators that want to save their content, but to individuals as well. Many are using Google+ services without seeing them as any type of social media, primarily with Google Photos, Google Docs, and Google Data.
The best course of action, in this case, would be to download all of the data you have posted and create a copy that will be available offline. This will make sure that you will not lose any data in case the migration fails. Additionally, some information might become scrambled with the transfer, and it is often much easier uploading them from a primary source than trying to resolve the issue with the API.
Thankfully, downloading all of your data is very easy, and works without issues even when you are connected through a VPN.
The easiest way to download everything directly and to be able to catalog it in any way that you like is to establish a Google Drive. This way you will be able to send all of your documents to cloud-based storage and take it from there the same way you would from your hard drive.
For any Google Docs, a ‘’drive” icon will appear that will copy everything to your Google Drive. Once there, you will be able to right-click and download everything to your device. In the case that you are using a tablet, you will see a small ‘’more actions’’ button on the upper right side, under which there is a ‘’download’’ option.
Downloading any photos or videos from your Google Account is as easy as it is with documents, and it can be synced automatically without supervision.
Once in your Google Drive, click (or press, depending on the device) the ‘’Settings’’ button on the top-right. This is the same on all platforms. Under general settings, you will have an option to check automatically putting Google Photos in your Drive. Depending on the number of photos and videos, this might take some time but will go much faster than the later download.
When you have everything in your Drive folder, you can use the same system as with your documents to save it on a hard drive. Keep in mind that this download will take quite a bit of time, so it is better to do this from a device capable of multitasking.
This feature has slightly more steps, as you will need to go to your Google Account and select which data you want to download. The choice is somewhat hidden in the Data & Personalization panel, where you will see an option to download or delete your data.
When you select to download you can send yourself a link via email, but is it better to do this through Google Drive as well. Select your Drive, and it will transfer everything so that you can download it in the same way as you did with your documents and photos.
Protecting Your Data
There are too many people who believe that just by using a proxy connection they will be able to shield themselves from harm, even though that the main difference between a VPN and Proxy connection is that the latter can often be the cause of a data breach. If we are talking about personal data, there is no better way to protect yourself than with a good VPN. Premium providers like Le VPN can give excellent speeds with no visible lag, while also protecting your devices from many other forms of malicious software.
Also, there are other reasons why you might want to change the place from which you are accessing the internet, both as a company and an individual.
Otherwise, if we are talking about protecting your content, it is always wise to have a copy of everything you do secure on a hard drive. If this hard copy is behind a VPN and a good anti-malware program you can rest assured that it will be safe even if all of the tech giants fail.
In the end, Google+ shut down won’t be a big deal for most people. Apparently, none of the users affected by the leak had their data collected, and most services that will end with the shutdown will be reintroduced for their users through the Google Suite.
For personal users, the biggest take from everything that happened is that our data is not safe even with the biggest of tech giants. That is why we need security features like VPN and anti-malware software on all of our devices, as well as backups of all of our favorite content. In the end, the best internet experience we can have is a safe internet experience.
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