A joint investigation reports by the publications Motherboard and PCMag revealed that Avast has been collecting and selling user data. This includes browsing history, to third parties for profit. This is yet another of many incidents involving antivirus spying. It makes sense when you think about it. At the end of the day, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Update: Avast announced on January 30, 2020, that its Jumpshot subsidiary will be shut down. This is the arm of the operation that collected and sold user browsing history.
Antivirus Spying: Avast Collects and Sells Your Data
What sets Avast apart is the fact that Avast allows these customers to view incredibly granular data through a simple process. They can see the time at which the users browse the Internet and even see the person’s device ID. Unless you uninstall the Avast antivirus from your device, these companies will continue to see every detail of your browsing history by the millisecond.
Although Avast claims that this data is kept anonymous, both Motherboard and PCMag were able to easily find the individuals behind each data stream. For instance, if you can identify the details of a user that made a certain purchase, then you can easily follow their browsing history to find their identity.
Avast Uses Its Desktop Antivirus to Do This
Whenever someone installs the Avast antivirus on their computer and adds it to their default settings, they’re basically inviting the company to sell their data to marketers. They do this by using their Jumpshot subsidiary. Jumpshot collects the data through the Avast antivirus app.
One of the first things you need to do when installing the Avast app is to click “I agree” to its data sharing policy. But, since no-one has the time to read through the policy and understand what it says, most people just click with no regard for what it contains.
If you have Avast on your computer right now, test this out. Go the app, click on Menu, followed by Settings, then General and lastly Personal Privacy. Then disable all of your data sharing options to protect your data from operators like Avast. This is how you disable Avast’s data collection if you don’t want to uninstall the app from your device.
But, the only way to absolutely guarantee that your data is safe from Avast antivirus spying is to simply uninstall the app in the first place.
Attention: Read before you continue
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Antivirus software comes with browser extensions that are designed to collect marketing-related information. For instance, in October 2019, Wladimir Palant who created Adblock Plus, revealed the method used by Avast browser extensions. This method collects and distributes user data without their knowledge. This report shows that Avast is in cahoots with AVG to do the same activity.
It’s important to note that Mozilla and Google can only do so much to protect users from antivirus company’s data collection practices when it comes to their browser extensions. But they have no control over what the companies do with their desktop applications. Perhaps that’s why Avast is doubling down on desktop app data gathering.
Looks like the best way to protect yourself and your data from these practices is to avoid installing free antivirus browser extensions. But, that only takes care of part of the problem and doesn’t protect you against other privacy concerns.
What About Free Antivirus Software?
As we mentioned earlier in this article, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. While free antivirus software might seem free, they have to cover their overheads somehow. That’s what Avast and similar companies are trying to do by collecting and monetizing user data.
Avast used to even have a “shopping” feature for certain web pages. This was to maximize the data collection but they don’t do that anymore.
In addition, a lot of antivirus companies are known for changing their users’ default search engine and make many other changes which help them to optimize their data gathering experience. They might even add a few software offers and change your browser’s homepage to better track and sell your data.
Why You Should Use IPVanish?
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are known snoopers who’re constantly watching your activity. ISPs have first dibs on your data. They can use it to track your browsing history from the cart you left on that online store yesterday to that video you watched on YouTube this morning. They can even use your data to bring you targeted ads that are based on your search history. Thanks to IPVanish, users can hide their data even from their ISPs.
Let’s face it, we live in a world where antivirus spying is a thing. However, this behavior is most common with free antivirus software and apps. These collect user data and sell it to third parties for a profit.
Have you ever experienced antivirus spying? If so, how did you protect yourself from it? Let us know in the comments section below!