The ongoing question is just how much information does web companies need and how much should they have access to? Not only that, but the perils of free software has become more evident in recent days. While the necessity of purchased antivirus software (like Norton, MacAffee, and Webroot) has become more irrelevant, since free software has become more popular and offer enough protection. However, companies like Avast are doing some shady shit behind the scenes.
Boasting more than 435 million active users per month, Motherboard and PCMag have discovered that the price of free has a huge price. During the investigation, the publications discovered that the company was selling personal information of its users to a subsidiary, Jumpshot, who then sold that information to a lot of companies.
“Some past, present, and potential clients include Google, Yelp, Microsoft, McKinsey, Pepsi, 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.”
In a press release from July, Jumpshot claims to be “the only company that unlocks walled garden data” and seeks to “provide marketers with deeper visibility into the entire online customer journey.”
That isn’t the scariest part. In obtained leaked internal documents showing exactly what kind of walled-garden data Jumpshot had in mind, such as “Google searches, lookups of locations and GPS coordinates on Google Maps, people visiting companies’ LinkedIn pages, particular YouTube videos, and people visiting porn websites,” among other things. Avast told reporters that data collection was presented as an opt-in mechanism, but several users told Motherboard they had no idea they were opted into such a service and did not recall being asked.
While the company claims that they don’t collect identifying information, they have enough information that could tell the identity of the individual without their name. After the report dropped online, Avast has announced that they will stop the Jumpshot data collection and end its operations, effective immediately.
This isn’t the first time Avast got caught up in shady shit. Google, Opera, and Mozilla pulled some Avast and AVG (which is owned by Avast) extensions from their browsers in early December, after the data harvesting came to light. They were later added back as optional extensions in Firefox after Avast made changes to the extensions’ data-collection practices.
Avast and AVG (which is owned by Avast) have been known to look for ways to make money on the back-end of free software, which is common. Amazon, Google, Facebook, and many others sell data information to make money and keep these services free. But, just how much do we give up for free? That is why I use BitDefender as an antivirus, even though Windows Defender works well for everyone that doesn’t do shady shit online. I can guarantee you that this won’t be the last you hear of this.