This very popular antivirus collects your browsing data without asking you to sell it to advertisers

For years, this popular antivirus has been collecting information about its users’ web browsers without their consent, in order to sell it for advertising purposes. Today he has been condemned by the authorities.

Between hacks and viruses, all devices connected to the Internet are exposed to multiple threats. This is why it is strongly recommended to protect them with specialized antivirus tools, be it a computer or a smartphone. You may be tempted to choose free software, especially since some have significant reputations and millions of users. But remember the saying: “If it’s free, you’re a product.” It’s not uncommon for antivirus programs to secretly collect and sell your data, which raises privacy concerns. This is the case of Avast, the most popular antivirus with no less than 435 million users worldwide. It is particularly popular in France, one of its five largest markets.

An earlier joint investigation by Motherboard and PCMag found that Avast’s browser extension captured a significant amount of data on its users from 2014 to 2020. The same was true for antivirus on smartphones and computers. The revelations prompted the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the US government agency responsible for consumer protection and competition regulation, to launch a massive investigation in turn, the findings of which it has just released. It seems that, in addition to secretly stealing its users’ data, Avast sold it for advertising purposes. Not bad for a company responsible for protecting its customers!

© Avast

To steal its users’ data, Avast went through its subsidiary Jumpshot, which specialized in digital marketing – it has since shut down following the revelations. His Business: Offers big brands like Google, Microsoft, Sephora and L’Oreal, detailed studies on the behavior of their potential customers on the web. Thus, Avast collected customers’ browsing information, stored it indefinitely, and sold it to more than a hundred third parties without customers’ consent. This data includes their locations, religious beliefs, health status, political opinions, but also places visited and their financial status. Worse, the company has not even taken necessary steps to anonymize the data. These were sold with unique identifiers for each browser. By combining this information, it was also theoretically possible to discover the identity of an Internet user. This is all the more serious because the FTC believes that Avast is lying to its users. Although the company actually undertook to protect against online advertising tracking, it studied it itself.

Also, the FTC prohibited Avast from selling its users’ data collected by its products for advertising purposes. In addition, she has been ordered to erase all personal data stored by Jumpshot. In the end, she received a fine of 16.5 million dollars, which will be used “Give customers redress”. The company recalled that it had voluntarily shut down Jumpshot in January 2020 following the revelations of the investigation. “We are committed to our mission of protecting and empowering people’s digital lives”she indicated. “While we disagree with the FTC’s allegations and characterization of the facts, we are pleased to resolve this matter and look forward to continuing to serve our millions of customers around the world.”

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