Avast's free antivirus solution tracks users online to mine data for companies like Microsoft,...

nanoguy

TS Addict
Staff member

At a time when high-profile tech executives are calling on governments to impose more stringent privacy rules, there's nothing like another reminder that everyone is fighting to get a hold of your habits, preferences, and pretty much any other data that can be used by advertisers to target you more easily.

Such is the case of Avast, which is known for its popular free antivirus solution that an estimated 400 million users around the world depend on for their online security. According to a joint investigation by Vice and PCMag that involves leaked contracts and other company documents, Avast along with its AVG subsidiary have been keeping track of what users did online while using the free software they distribute.

The scheme involves Jumpshot, a company that "provides insights into consumers’ online journeys by measuring every search, click and buy across 1,600 categories from more than 150 sites, including Amazon, Google, Netflix, and Walmart." Installing Avast's free antivirus automatically adds in a browser extension that collects information on your internet activity and sends it to Jumpshot packed and tagged with a unique identifier.

Apparently, the most interesting things for Avast's data collection are searches on Google and Google Maps, YouTube videos, LinkedIn searches and profile visits, and even what users view on PornHub. This gets sent to Jumpshot's customers which include Google, Microsoft, Pepsi, Sephora, Home Depot, Yelp, Intuit, and many others.

Avast says it doesn't track any sensitive information like personal identification, phone numbers, or email. The company also insists that "as of July 2019, we had already begun implementing an explicit opt-in choice for all new downloads of our AV, and we are now also prompting our existing free users to make an opt-in or opt-out choice, a process which will be completed in February 2020."

This would be a lot more palatable for users if Avast hadn't tried sneaking in its antivirus solution with every CCleaner installation. The company does contribute a lot to the online security industry, but its privacy practices seem to change whenever they are called into question.

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Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
I dumped them years ago when this was first reveled .... otherwise it was a pretty decent program ...
 

Bullwinkle M

TS Maniac
I dumped them years ago when this was first reveled .... otherwise it was a pretty decent program ...
I still have the last XP compatible copies of AVG to show that this has been happening for years

Back in 2015, AVG would tell you that you have 15 infections (Dangerous Trojans) if you were using a Legitimate copy of Microsoft SP3 on a Pre-Activated Volume Licenced copy of Windows XP

With only SP2, no Trojans were found

With a Valid, Licenced copy of XP, AVG did not find any alleged infections using the same copy of AVG on the same copy of SP3

Simply installing SP3 on a volume licenced copy of XP was enough to try scaring you into using so called "Valid" copies of XP and they obviously must have turned over the user data to Microsoft due to the unlicensed nature of the O.S. because they simply had no internal use for such information

These are scumbags using Lies and malware to identify those of you who don't use their proprietary, Monopolized Spyware/Malware Platform of choice

Nobody listened to me back then

Why the sudden interest?
 
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kmo911

TS Booster
Is it really legal ? DONT use IT at all. avoid third party ccleaner. use clean versions. WOW infecsions and everybody DIE ed on severs. LOL
 

m4a4

TS Evangelist
TechSpot Elite
Wait, when did people start thinking that antivirus's were also meant to give them more privacy (beyond removing bad actors)? I have an antivirus to keep away, um, viruses and malware.

Grabbing decent, free software always has the chance that they collect data to make their money. Nothing new.
 
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Arbie

TS Booster
Every time a story like this breaks, we instantly get the knee-jerk posters saying "well of course / meh / you're the product" and similar glib BS.

This IS important information because Avast / AVG is doing something unadvertised, unexpected in an AV, and against all the company's claims of respecting privacy etc. And they're doing it to 400 million people.

I will be uninstalling Avast from the several PCs where I still have it. Thanks for the warning (and yes I understand that other sites did the investigation).
 

TomSEA

TechSpot Chancellor
What a shock. There ain't nothing "free" in this world.

I've been using the Premium version of Malwarebytes (which I bought during a one-time subscription for life they offered) and couldn't be more pleased with it.
 

Plutoisaplanet

TS Maniac
Wait, when did people start thinking that antivirus's were also meant to give them more privacy (beyond removing bad actors)? I have an antivirus to keep away, um, viruses and malware.

Grabbing decent, free software always has the chance that they collect data to make their money. Nothing new.
Isn't that the definition of spyware? By installing this specific antivirus, someone would actually maintain malware on their own computer.
 
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m4a4

TS Evangelist
TechSpot Elite
Isn't that the definition of spyware? By installing this specific antivirus, someone would actually maintain malware on their own computer.
No. The browser plugin (that monitors if a site is "safe") sends anonymous data back about the sites visited. Easy to disable when it announces it's been added.

It isn't secretly trying to get your login information (or whatnot) for malicious intent.

Though Avast is certainly trying too hard to get the information...
 
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BadThad

TS Maniac
No big deal really, it's a free program that works very well. I really like the boot-time scanning ability. I've installed Avast on hundreds of computers over my life (mostly customer systems) and it's amazingly wonderful for "free". Fortunately, I do NOT install the "Avast Secure Browser" nor the "Avast Safe Sites" extension on any system.

If you pay attention during setup or even do a clean-up after installation, it's quite easy to eliminate the extras they install that you don't really need. It's also useful to use the Avast "silent mode" to prevent any pop-ups from the system icon - they tend to advertise Avast "add on programs" using it.

Sorry, but this tracking doesn't alarm me in the least. Avast is an excellent AV solution and the price it right!
 

noel24

TS Evangelist
Avast was overbloated piece of garbage for like 5 years or more now. Few years back it suffered a major upgrade after it gained some new add-on functionalities (password manager, online security and so on), tonnes of advertisings for those (paid) components, and started to slow down older PCs at my house practically to a halt. Hell, I felt it on my main quad core, 8GB RAM rig.
It's shocking that around 400 million people are still using this sh*t. Imagine how much hardware industry would loose if all those people moved to something else, like Panda or MS Security and realised They don't have to buy a new PC to enjoy speed improvement.
 
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DukeJukem

TS Addict
If you dig around in avasts' settings you'll find that they clearly admit they use your data to provide to 3rd parties. it literally says 3rd party in the description lol. you can uncheck the boxes but does that stop them? It's not like Windows Defender is any better though.....because it's Microsoft lol. You can try BitDefender free or Kaspersky free if you're concerned enough to remove Avast or Windows Defender.
 
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Markoni35

TS Maniac
Avast was always crap. From the first moment to now they were never a good app. You can just smell it when you install it. The stink of greed of the management impregnates the product.
 
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Draconian

TS Enthusiast
Free antivirus programs tend to have annoying popups that hassle you to buy the paid version.

Amazon runs sales where you can get paid AV for 20-30 USD per year.

If you absolutely refuse to pay for AV, there's always Microsoft Windows Defender.
 

georgejepsen

TS Rookie
Avast was always crap. From the first moment to now they were never a good app. You can just smell it when you install it. The stink of greed of the management impregnates the product.
Yeah, my PC was always choking despite HEDT processor and the constant pop ups were insane. And I think it left something in the program folder despite uninstalling.
 

BadThad

TS Maniac
Avast was overbloated piece of garbage for like 5 years or more now. Few years back it suffered a major upgrade after it gained some new add-on functionalities (password manager, online security and so on), tonnes of advertisings for those (paid) components, and started to slow down older PCs at my house practically to a halt. Hell, I felt it on my main quad core, 8GB RAM rig.
It's shocking that around 400 million people are still using this sh*t. Imagine how much hardware industry would loose if all those people moved to something else, like Panda or MS Security and realised They don't have to buy a new PC to enjoy speed improvement.
Well, your machines must be garbage. If you want to see something kill a computer, install Norton or McAfee and watch your PC's nearly stop working. Avast runs WELL on many different systems all the way down to P4. How do I know? Because I've been using it for over a decade.