Google Targeted By Senate Committee After Massive Data Leak

An empty seat for Google is seen during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing.
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The Senate Judiciary Committee set their sights on Google this Friday, after the tech giant failed to disclose its weaknesses prior to the hack that exposed the personal information of users of the social media platform Google+ — which Google plans to shut down soon — according to reports from Business Insider.

Writing a letter to Sundar Pichai, the current CEO of Google, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley laid into the company for ignoring requests to participate in previous Senate hearings regarding these risks — while also failing to provide any information about the glitch that led to the hack. In the immediate aftermath of the hack, Google reported that it could affect as many as 500,000 Google+ users.

Grassley wrote, “Given your and Google’s unwillingness to participate, I sent you a letter seeking information on Google’s current data privacy policies, specifically as they relate to Google’s third-party developer APIs. Your responses to my questions highlighted Google’s application verification process, the continuous monitoring of applications through machine learning, and the use of manual audits, all to ensure robust protection of user data.”

Grassley went on to add, “Despite your contention that Google did not have the same data protection failures as Facebook, 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 also focused his letter on questions regarding Google never having disclosed its glitches to both senators and members of the House of Representatives that it had previously met with. Google also did not inform its users when the glitch was first discovered in March. Grassley also questioned the quality of the audits that Google was conducting on its third-party developers.

In comparison to its tech peers, Google has been quite uncooperative with the American government, creating a frosty relationship. While Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg both testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee back in September, Google did not participate.

Lamenting Google’s failure to attend, Senator Mark Warner — who is the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee — said, “Given its size and influence, I would have thought the leadership at Google would want to demonstrate how seriously it takes these challenges and to lead this important public discussion.”