Last week, both Motherboard and PCMag released reports that AVAST, a free antivirus software, was harvesting user data and selling it to advertisers. As a result, Avast announced that it would be shutting down the subsidiary company that enabled the practice.
The company’s CEO, Ondrej Vlcek, stated that Avast would terminate Jumpshot’s (subsidiary) data collection and operations immediately. He went on to state that ‘Protecting people is Avast’s top priority and must be embedded in everything we do in our business and our products. Anything to the contrary is unacceptable.’ Read the full statement here.
The decision to end the practice was a direct result of the investigation between Motherboard and PCMag. They found that the data collected included location lookups, Google searches, and URLs visited with time stamps. It also had specific searches made on sites like Amazon. According to Avast, a user’s identity cannot be known from the data. Experts that Motherboard spoke to said that a user could get identified in some cases.
Jumpshot reported it was fed data from up to 100 million devices. Companies like Google, Microsoft, Yelp, and Pepsi are clients. These companies paid millions of dollars to Jumpshot for its products, some of which included precise browsing data. While Avast is bringing the company to an end, Vlcek defended the way that the company collected data. He noted that Jumpshot was an independent company. Lastly, he said that both Avast and Jumpshot acted ‘within full legal bounds.’
As a result of the investigation, PCMag no longer recommends Avast Free Antivirus as its Editors Choice in free antivirus protection. The big take away is to be sure to read what you agree to when installing programs. Your privacy is essential. However, companies are able to use your data with your permission. We agree to this when we check the box in terms of service or user agreement while we set up an app. For more information about our in house protection plans, which are all handled locally, click here.
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