Google is still having trouble protecting the personal information on its Plus service, prodding the company to accelerate its plans to shut down a little-used social network created to compete against Facebook. A privacy flaw that inadvertently exposed the names, email addresses, ages and other personal information of 52.5 million Google Plus users last month convinced Google to close the service in April instead of August, as previously announced. Google revealed the new closure date and its latest privacy lapse in a Monday blog post. It's the second time in two months that Google has disclosed the existence of a problem that enabled unauthorized access to Plus profiles. In October, the company acknowledged finding a privacy flaw affecting 500,000 Plus users that it waited more than six months to disclose, per the AP.
Even if the latest privacy gaffe on Plus didn't cause any major damage, it nevertheless marks another embarrassing incident for Google. The company's business model relies on it being seen as a trustworthy guardian of the personal information it collects about billions of users. Like Facebook, Google makes most of its money by selling ads that draw upon what the company learns about the interests, habits and locations of people while they're using its free services. Google's privacy issues on Plus are likely to be a topic that US lawmakers delve into Tuesday, when company CEO Sundar Pichai is scheduled to appear before a House committee. Pichai's appearance comes more than three months after he turned down an invitation to testify in August, to the consternation of some lawmakers. (Meanwhile, Google faces problems from within its own ranks.)