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Avast sells data from users for free antivirus software under a pseudonym

Avast security company sells pseudonymized data from users of the free version on a large scale to advertisers. This includes browsing history, which is sold to large companies such as Google, Microsoft, Pepsi, and McKinsey, among others.

This appears from a joint investigation by Vice and PCMag. The sites were given documents such as contracts and leaked data. The investigation comes after an uproar about the services of Avast. Mozilla, among others, removed the extension from the antivirus company and its subsidiary AVG from Firefox after it turned out that the add-on collected much more information than intended. Avast responded by saying that the data was collected under a pseudonym. The company also said it had stopped data collection. In the meantime, however, data collection continued via the free version of the desktop version of the antivirus software.

The documents and data from Vice and PCMag show that detailed information about the internet behavior of users is collected. This would include browsing history, but also search terms that users entered on websites and GPS coordinates. No personal data would be collected, but according to experts who spoke with Vice and PCMag, it was sometimes possible to find out who was behind a data set.

For resale, Avast used a subsidiary named Jumpshot. He sold the data to large companies such as Google, Yelp and the Home Depot hardware store. They could, in turn, use the data for customer research. Vice and PCMag, for example, note that publisher Condé Nast used the data to measure the effectiveness of an advertising campaign. Companies can also buy datasets that they can use to see which users have been to a certain site.

Avast says that after the removal of Mozilla, it opted in for data collection on the desktop. Vice and PCMag, however, spoke to various users who did not know that they had signed up for it or who did not remember having made the choice. Avast has a total of 435 million active users per month, but how many of them use the free version is unknown. Jumpshot said in 2018 it had data from 100 million unique devices.

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