Google is pulling the plug on Google+ for consumer users as it emerges that a bug in its software has caused serious data breaches.
Google has said that up to 500,000 Google+ users have been affected and that their private information may have been accessed by third parties. According to the Wall Street Journal, Google has known about this issue since March of this year.
Google has said that up to 438 third-party applications may have had access to private user information because of the bug. Google+ was launched in 2011 but it has never attracted a significant popular following.
Ben Smith, Google's vice president of engineering, announced the news in a company blog. He said a company review of Google+ had concluded that there were "significant challenges in creating and maintaining a successful Google+ that meets consumers' expectations. Given these challenges and the very low usage of the consumer version of Google+, we decided to sunset the consumer version of Google+."
The process of closing Google+ for consumers will take place over a number of months.
Smith said: "To give people a full opportunity to transition, we will implement this wind-down over a ten-month period, slated for completion by the end of next August. Over the coming months, we will provide consumers with additional information, including ways they can download and migrate their data."
Google says it will continue to offer private Google+ powered networks for businesses currently using the software.