Sen. Grassley Wants Answers About Google+ 'Glitches'

Add Senate Judiciary Committee chair Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) to the lengthening list of those, Republican and Democrat, who want answers from Google about the Google+ data vulnerability it chose not to tell its users about.

Grassley wants the company to explain how it is protecting personal info given that the "glitches" apparently went unaddressed for three years.

Grassley invited Google to join Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at an April 10 hearing on data privacy and social media, but he says Google declined because it said it didn’t have the same data privacy issues as Facebook had.

“Despite your contention that Google did not have the same data protection failures as Facebook," Grassley wrote in a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, "It appears from recent reports that Google+ had an almost identical feature to Facebook, which allowed third party developers to access information from users as well as private information of those users’ connections. Moreover, it appears that you were aware of this issue at the time I invited you to participate in the hearing and sent you the letter regarding Google’s policies,” Grassley wrote.

Google VP of engineering Ben Smith blogged Monday (Oct. 8) that the company was shutting down Google+, its effort to take on Facebook in the social media sphere, but somewhat buried the lead that 500,000 accounts were affected by a glitch that allowed outside app developers access to profile data including e-mail addresses, occupation, gender and age.

A Wall Street Journal story on the vulnerability cited an internal memo that talked about the "immediate regulatory interest" disclosure could draw and which could bring Google "into the spotlight alongside or even instead of Facebook despite having stayed under the radar throughout the Cambridge Analytica scandal" and "almost [guarantee] Sundar will testify before Congress."

Grassley wants answers to a lot of questions, including why Google did not disclose the problem to the public, or to Congress and why it took three years to discover the glitch.

Google has been the subject of hefty fines abroad and increased scrutiny at home a scrutiny only likely to increase given the latest issue with Google+.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.