Avast fined $16.5 million by FTC for selling user browsing data to advertisers

midian182

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What just happened? Cybersecurity giant Avast has been hit with a $16.5 million fine from the FTC for selling customers' web browsing data to advertisers. The company carried out this practice despite its promise to protect consumers from online tracking. Avast has now been banned from selling user data for advertising purposes.

The FTC writes in its complaint that since at least 2014 to 2020, Avast collected consumers' browsing information through its antivirus and browser extensions. This data included information about searches and web pages that were visited, revealing the likes of religious beliefs, health concerns, political leanings, location, financial status, visits to child-directed content, and other sensitive information.

This information Avast gathered was stored indefinitely, according to the complaint, and sold to over 100 third parties without customers' knowledge or consent. Buyers included Google, Yelp, Microsoft, Home Depot, Pepsi, and consulting giant McKinsey, making Avast tens of millions of dollars.

Avast had promised that its software blocked data-collecting tracking cookies, but in reality it was the security company doing the tracking.

"Avast promised users that its products would protect the privacy of their browsing data but delivered the opposite," said Samuel Levine, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement on Thursday. "Avast's bait-and-switch surveillance tactics compromised consumers' privacy and broke the law."

Avast's privacy practices came to light in January 2020 following a joint investigation by Motherboard and PCMag. It led to Avast closing down Jumpshot, its data harvesting subsidiary. Avast claimed it removed identifying information from user data before selling it, but the FTC said the company "failed to sufficiently anonymize consumers' browsing information." Avast sold data with unique web browser identifiers, precise timestamps, type of device and browser, and the city, state, and country.

Avast had more than 430 million active users worldwide at the time. Jumpshot said it had access to data from 100 million devices.

The FTC's proposed order will prevent Avast from misrepresenting how it uses the data it collects. It is also prohibited from selling or licensing any browsing data from Avast-branded products to third parties for advertising purposes, and must delete all the web-browsing data acquired by Jumpshot.

Avast merged with NortonLifeLock in 2022, forming a parent company called Gen Digital. Its products include AVG, Avira, and CCleaner.

Avast's statement in response to the FTC's complaint read: "We are committed to our mission of protecting and empowering people's digital lives."

"While we disagree with the FTC's allegations and characterization of the facts, we are pleased to resolve this matter and look forward to continuing to serve our millions of customers around the world."

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Man this enforcement stuff is tedious. We need Republicans like Ajit Pai back in charge so our regulators can get back to the core business of doing nothing but collect a paycheck.
 
I would strongly support legislation that would outlaw the selling of ANY user data, regardless of any disclaimers. That will be the only way to stop it and it should be backed up with some hefty fines & jail time for the offenders.
 
Avast was my go-to AV software up until a few years ago, but it had gone downhill over the years and it showed. The final straw was that it was interfering with my work software and it's whitelists were doing jack all.

So, not surprised to see that they haven't been getting any better for users...
 
I used avast from 2004, back when symantec and mcafee were still popular but costs money. my first laptop came with norton but it expires after few months. so I needed a replacement and back then if you want free antivirus it was either avast, avg or avira. I used avast because I find it more powerful than the others and it has boot scanning capability. I remember back then you had to renew yearly license to be able to use free avast.

by about 2010 after windows 7 was launched I realized that Microsoft made their own antivirus (was MSE, now Defender) and it was "lighter" to use. remember back in 2010 SSD were not common and a heavy antivirus would noticeably slow down your system. I tried MSE and deleted avast. then I bought a new PC in 2011 and tried installing avast. I was shocked to see that it started to become the very thing it was suppose to destroy. it was becoming a nagware. turns out, the company changed its name from Alwil to Avast and redesigned the logo too. I deleted it and moved on.

I guess their trick to provide "free" antivirus in early 2000s paid off really well, if they managed to have more than 400 million active users in 2020.
 
Avast was my go-to AV software up until a few years ago, but it had gone downhill over the years and it showed. The final straw was that it was interfering with my work software and it's whitelists were doing jack all.

So, not surprised to see that they haven't been getting any better for users...
That is a thing, apps can interfere with each other.
One particular thing I do when something stops working is recalling if I installed anything recently.
 
That is a thing, apps can interfere with each other.
One particular thing I do when something stops working is recalling if I installed anything recently.
Yeah, and their settings to prevent interference were doing jack all, as I said.

No point wasting my time further with crappy software.
 
I would strongly support legislation that would outlaw the selling of ANY user data, regardless of any disclaimers. That will be the only way to stop it and it should be backed up with some hefty fines & jail time for the offenders.
Outlaw collection of data unless permitted under written permission, legalized. 😆😛😜🤪😝
 
A big corp selling peoples data after lying to those same people about protecting their privacy?!? NOOO!! Say it ain't soo!!
 
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