Avast is yet another company that demonstrates ‘free’ really means you are the product.
That’s the case with the free antivirus products from Avast, which harvest browsing history for sale to major corporations. Despite claims that its data is fully anonymized, an investigation by our sister site PCMag and Motherboard shows how easy it is to unmask individual users.
Avast, which offers antivirus products under its own brand as well as AVG, has traditionally gotten high marks for its malware blocking prowess. When setting up the company’s free AV suite, users are asked to opt into data collection. Many do so after being assured all the data is anonymized and aggregated to protect their identities. However, Avast is collecting much more granular data than anyone expected, and that puts your privacy at risk.
Avast markets user data through its Jumpshot subsidiary, which has relationships with firms like Google, Pepsi, Microsoft, and Home Depot. PCMag and Motherboard managed to gain access to internal documents and a sample of data from Jumpshot, and they found Avast is tracking user clicks down to the second. Here’s an example of Jumpshot’s data format.