The Avast antivirus program used by hundreds of millions of people around the world is selling highly sensitive web browsing data to many of the world’s biggest companies, including Google and Microsoft, a joint investigation by Motherboard and PC Magazine has found. The report is backed by leaked user data, contracts, and other company documents.
Ironically, Avast Free Antivirus was a PC Magazine “Editors’ Choice” – which Avast advertises on their box – until today.
The documents, from a subsidiary of the antivirus giant Avast called Jumpshot, shine new light on the secretive sale and supply chain of peoples’ internet browsing histories. They show that the Avast antivirus program installed on a person’s computer collects data, and that Jumpshot repackages it into various different products that are then sold to many of the largest companies in the world. Some past, present, and potential clients include Google, Yelp, Microsoft, McKinsey, Pepsi, Sephora, Home Depot, Condé Nast, Intuit, and many others. Some clients paid millions of dollars for products that include a so-called “All Clicks Feed,” which can track user behavior, clicks, and movement across websites in highly precise detail.
Avast claims to have more than 435 million active users per month, and Jumpshot says it has data from 100 million devices. Avast collects data from users that opt-in and then provides that to Jumpshot, but multiple Avast users told Motherboard they were not aware Avast sold browsing data, raising questions about how informed that consent is.
It is possible to determine from the collected data what date and time the anonymized user visited YouPorn and PornHub, and in some cases what search term they entered into the porn site and which specific video they watched. Although the data does not include personal information such as users’ names, it still contains a wealth of specific browsing data, and experts say it could be possible to deanonymize certain users.
MacDailyNews Take: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
There are many more sordid details in the full article.
A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realise that when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product. — Apple CEO Tim Cook, September 2014