Avast accused of collecting and selling users’ browsing data
In a sensational revelation, a report claimed that the popular antivirus program Avast harvested users’ browsing data and sold it to several other companies including Microsoft and Google.
Now it is worth to note that Avast antivirus is installed on more than 435 million desktop and mobile devices.
This revelation was made after the joint investigation by Motherboard and PCMag that accessed leaked documents from a subsidiary of Avast, called Jumpshot. Avast collected the data from devices and Jumpshot repackaged it into different products to sell.
One of the data product was “All Clicks Feed” that had user behavior, clicks, and movement across websites in detail. Clients paid millions of dollars for this data.
The report also claimed, “Avast recorded porn site visits that are anonymized, offered the date and time the user visited the sites, as well as search terms and viewed videos in some instances.”
In its defense, Avast claimed that it fully de-identified the data so it cannot be used to personally identify or target users back. But the investigation confirmed that the data can be linked back to individual Avast users.
Avast also claimed that it had stopped sharing data from the browser extensions with Jumpshot for any purpose. But the report also confirmed that Jhumshot can still collect your browser histories through Avast’s main antivirus applications.
When someone installs Avast or AVG antivirus (owned by Avast) on Windows, it asks “Mind sharing some data with us?” Via a pop-up message. If you confirm, your data will be shared. But this pop-up does not mention how Jumpshot can retain access to the data for 3 years. So, users who think their data is protected are at risk.
Users install Antivirus programs to protect themselves, not to sell their data to marketers. So, this is a serious case. It is also a lesson that reaches why shouldn’t you trust free Antivirus or free VPN programs.