Avast online security products are there to help protect you from attacks and viruses on the internet. The software is made available to millions of users for free, and works on all operating systems. However, a recent discovery revealed that Avast may be giving your personal information to marketing companies.
We have seen marketing and advertising companies collect data from people for many reasons. Nonetheless, it has people worried about what their information that’s collected. Many companies claim that the data collected is not directly linked to you, but how do we know if this is true? With almost no way to protect the data collected about people from websites, something needs to be done to stop Avast spying on its users and data brokering.
What Is Avast?
Avast is a security and browser extension that will help protect your device from threats and viruses. The software will scan your computer system for anything that poses a danger to your system and will remove it. It will also work as a windows defender to block any threats while browsing online that are considered a threat. All you need to do is install Avast onto the device that you want it to protect. They offer free and paid versions of the program, depending on what you are looking to use it for.
A recent discovery by PCMag and Motherboard revealed that Avast may be harvesting user’s browser history and selling it to third-party agencies. The research reveals that the history harvested by Avast can potentially be linked back to the true identity of these users. This could be exposing every click down to the millisecond that you do on the internet.
And this isn’t the first time Avast has been in hot water over the past year. In September 2019, Avast’s CCleaner suffered a data breach when a hacker got access to an employee’s VPN login credentials. It wasn’t revealed how many users were affected, but it clearly demonstrates that Avast’s security and data protocols aren’t up to par.
The security software promptly responded to the accusation about sharing their customer’s data with marketing and advertising companies. They stated that, “The data is fully de-identified and aggregated and cannot be used to personally identify or target you.” So, the question remains, Is Avast still spying on users if their data is de-identified?
The Avast division that was accused of giving user data to marketing agencies is called Jumpshot, who has been offering access to user traffic for quite some time now. Jumpshot can access almost everything you do online including Google searches, social media posts, recent articles you read, and more. Data collection has advanced significantly over the years to the point they can track your activity precisely, including every click you make. Although the data does not directly link to your IP address, email, or name, each user history is given a device ID. Even though this may not seem like a major threat, this information combined with other data can pretty much reveal someone’s identity.
According to researchers, it is almost impossible to de-identify someone’s data that has been collected. There is enough information present that, combined with other data collected, can be used to identify a user. Security researchers reached out to Avast about what they meant by de-identifying data and aggregated. Aggregated typically means combined with other user’s data, and has researchers wondering how secure this data is. Co-director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University Eric Goldman stated, “It’s almost impossible to de-identify data.” Avast should be protecting their user’s data, not exposing it to third-party companies.
PCMag has reached out to Avast and Jumpshot about the issue, and they have declined to answer most questions. Avast did state that they stopped collecting directly on the software and from the browser extension.
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