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Congress is fed up with Google after it hid major data breach for months

Googles childish approach to business ethics has landed it in hot water with Congress yet again. After discovering a software glitch earlier this year – persisting since 2015 — the company chose to hide it from consumers and regulators. That is, until The Washington Post exposed it earlier this week. The glitch, which has since been fixed, affected the companys Google+ social network and exposed the personal data of nearly 500K users. Not here exactly, but on our new hardware site Plugged. Google has since shut Google+ down permanently. But questions remain over the timeline, and why the company chose not to disclose the glitch and potential breach. Senators John Thune, Roger Wicker, and Jerry Moran, are now demanding answers. The trio sent a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai on Thursday requesting information about the nature of the companys response to the breach. Specifically, the Senators are demanding a copy of an internal company memo allegedly detailing plans to keep quiet about the glitch. Google initially stated it hadnt disclosed the glitch because it wasnt sure if any breach had actually occurred. The Senators letter calls that motivation into question: But according to an internal memo cited in the article, a factor in Googles decision not to disclose the vulnerability was fear that doing so would draw immediate regulatory interest, bring 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. The letter calls on Google to provide the Senators with a copy of the memo and to answer a series of seven questions related to its choice not to disclose the glitch and what it thinks its obligations to its users are. The Senators also gave Google a deadline by which to respond with its answers (5:00 PM, 30 October) and set up a staff meeting. It comes off a bit like Thune and company are trying to give Google extra homework for breaking the rules, but the existence of the memo could be perceived as an attempt to subjugate regulatory efforts during a high-profile period for big tech. Google says it had no legal obligation to disclose the glitch. This latest kerfuffle for Google isnt the first time this year its been in poor graces with members of Congress. Sundar Pichais refusal to join Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitters Jack Dorsey for a hearing last month raised the ire of Capitol Hill. Now Pichai runs the risk of Congress ordering one that focuses solely on Google. The company appears to be struggling to find its identity under Pichais leadership. This year alone it suffered employee protests over its involvement in developing AI for the military and for building a censored Search engine for the Chinese government. The latter of which earned it yet another rebuking from the US government when Vice President Mike Pence personally requested Google immediately stop working on it. It cant be a good thing for Google to be on the US governments bad side — especially considering AI regulation is almost certainly coming to the US. Perhaps Googles parent company, Alphabet, should consider putting someone in charge who doesnt, allegedly, need to be protected from testifying in front of Congress.

Congress seeks more information on the Google+ data exposure

It sent the company a letter requesting additional details. Since the Google+ data exposure came to light earlier this week, European regulatory authorities have announced investigations into the matter and a US Senator has called for an FTC probe. Now, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has sent the company a letter requesting more information about the incident and Google's decision to keep it under wraps. "Data privacy is an issue of great concern for many Americans who use online services. Particularly in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica controversy, consumers' trust in the companies that operate those services to keep their private data secure has been shaken," the Senators write. "It is for this reason that the reported contents of Google's internal memo are so troubling. At the same time that Facebook was learning the important lesson that tech firms must be forthright with the public about privacy issues, Google apparently elected to withhold information about a relevant vulnerability for fear of public scrutiny." While Google discovered and fixed a bug in March that allowed outside developers to access around 500,000 Google+ users' private info, it chose not to disclose the finding. The company's official line is that because there was no evidence that data was misused and no way to know who was affected, it didn't find a disclosure necessary. However, an internal memo obtained by the Wall Street Journal noted that revealing the bug could result in "us coming into the spotlight alongside or even instead of Facebook despite having stayed under the radar throughout the Cambridge Analytica scandal. " The letter, which was signed by committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) and subcommittee Chairmen Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), asks for a copy of the memo referenced by the Wall Street Journal as well as detailed information on how the company discovered the issue and dealt with it. Additionally, the committee wants to know why Google didn't disclose the bug, whether it reported the problem to the FTC, if any similar incidents have been found and not reported and if Google will inform the committee in the event that it finds the bug did lead to data misuse. The committee has requested a response by October 30th as well as a staff briefing on the matter.