AVG's updated policy explains how it can sell users' browsing and search history data to advertisers

By midian182 ยท 32 replies
Sep 18, 2015
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  1. Security firm AVG has come under fire from users after revealing its new, “transparent” privacy policy which states that the company can sell search and browser history data to advertisers in order to "make money" from its free antivirus software.

    The updated policy, which comes into effect on 15 October, uses easy to read language to explain that AVG will collect non-personal user data such as “Browsing and search history, including meta data” in order to “make money from our free offerings so we can keep them free.”

    A spokesperson told Wired that the ability to collect search history data had been included in previous privacy policies, albeit using more complex language. It was pointed out that while these previous policies stated AVG could collect data on “the words you search,” they didn’t make it clear that browser history data could also be collected and sold to third parties.

    Alexander Hanff, a security expert and chief executive of Think Privacy, said AVG’s potential ability to collect and sell browser and search history data placed the company “squarely into the category of spyware.”

    "Antivirus software runs on our devices with elevated privileges so it can detect and block malware, adware, spyware and other threats," he told Wired. "It is utterly unethical to [the] highest degree and a complete and total abuse of the trust we give our security software." Hanff urged people using AVG's free antivirus to "immediately uninstall the product and find an alternative.”

    For its part, AVG has stated there will be a way for users to opt out once the privacy policy is active. "Those users who do not want us to use non-personal data in this way will be able to turn it off, without any decrease in the functionality our apps will provide," a company spokesperson said.

    AVG went out of its way to show off the clarity of its new privacy policy, even putting out press release announcing the update. Company CEO Gary Kovacs has urged the rest of the tech industry to adopt similarly transparent policies. It seems, however, that this transparency has resulted in a backlash against the world’s third largest antivirus vendor.

    Image credit: Maksim Kabakou / shutterstock

    Permalink to story.

  2. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,685   +1,085

    I guess I need to switch to another anti-virus software. I'm open for suggestions. Last I can recall Avast is good.
    learninmypc, DaveBG and Hexic like this.
  3. GreenArrow

    GreenArrow TS Enthusiast Posts: 52   +34

    I personally use malwarebytes
    MoeJoe likes this.
  4. Duckeenie

    Duckeenie TS Booster Posts: 80   +62

    I understand companies need to make money but isn't anti-virus company sells user data an oxymoron?
    DaveBG and EhsanW like this.
  5. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,274

    All these companies are tarred with the same brush. If you only visit sites you know and trust, don't open email attachments, do all the sensible things you're supposed to do, I don't see any need for an AV.
    I've used one (Bitdefender) for years now and it's yet to throw any warnings in my face. I don't visit dodgy sites etc but I'm sure it still collects all my info. What they do with it, heaven knows. Why don't you just use the built in AV in Windows (Windows Defender) if you simply must have an AV? MS collects all your data and info as well but you already knew that, and better the devil you know...
    cliffordcooley likes this.
  6. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 9,746   +3,712

    I've said the same thing. That is with the exception of those times I knew I was putting myself in harms way before hand. Some people don't like hearing this and will tell you that logging in will put you at risk. I'm like "yeah if you are targeted", if not you have to go find malware.

    Edit: On a side note, I have for years associated anti-virus with malware creators. After all who is the largest beneficiary behind creating and removing viruses? Anti-virus has to keep your attention level up by making you think you need protection.
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2015
    Skidmarksdeluxe likes this.
  7. MoeJoe

    MoeJoe TS Guru Posts: 712   +382

    I use Malwarebytes + Windows Defender.
    Have been for years.
    Never a problem and a boat load of money saved.
    DaveBG, stewi0001 and cliffordcooley like this.
  8. pioruns

    pioruns TS Rookie Posts: 22

    Thanks for letting me know. I am just uninstalling AVG from my system.
  9. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,274

    Yeah. I've visited some very questionable sites in my time and have picked up some unwanted stuff even while using an AV but I've since learned my lesson by having to reformat my machine each time just to make sure the damn crap was properly removed.
  10. MoeJoe

    MoeJoe TS Guru Posts: 712   +382

    Learn to image backup with something like Acronis
    (only one example ... choose your poison ...)
    and avoid having to reformat. I mean seriously, "reformatting" ? What is this, 1998 ?

    Folks that reformat, reinstall, waste time rebuilding are not tech competent.
    Sancticide likes this.
  11. lripplinger

    lripplinger TS Addict Posts: 283   +98

    Ummm. there is a reason its "free". Enjoy all that adware from using "free" antivirus. Furthermore, when you install this crap, it tries to install their branded Ask.com toolbar and take over your search engine and homepage.
  12. veLa

    veLa TS Evangelist Posts: 782   +235

    Honestly I've been using Comodo Antivirus and Firewall for free real-time protection, while using Malwarebytes for my scanner. I haven't had any problems with malware for years.
  13. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 1,877   +1,298

    Avast! went competely to crap about three years ago..it was letting a ton of stuff through. They were also just beginning to ruin its great UI with "modern" (lazy) design. Don't know if they bounced back. Eset Smart Security is pretty solid. You can sometimes get some great deals via Ebay or on Black Friday. Bitdefender is OK but its got a pointless, ugly touch UI. The 2013 version didn't have many options for customizing scans, either.
  14. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 1,877   +1,298

    People who can reformat and reinstall an OS are typically the MOST tech competent..and if you were actually as smart as you think, you'd have known that.
  15. Camikazi

    Camikazi TS Evangelist Posts: 925   +284

    Same combination I have used on my own and others computers and have had no problems at all.
  16. Average user: Windows Defender & WOT, Intermediate: Avast or Kaspersky & Adblock Plus, Paranoid user: Comodo Suite (including the browser) & Returnil, Anyone/ Enthusiast: Linux Ubuntu Gnome
  17. OgnDulk

    OgnDulk TS Enthusiast Posts: 26   +6

    kaspersky was half off so I sprang for it at $40, 3 licenses. every time I check it is the top rated antivirus. damn AVG and avast torment users with popup ads to sell you additional products.
  18. dusseldorf

    dusseldorf TS Member

    I certainly agree that this is nothing whatsoever that we users want; and there definitely are other free alternatives. I haven't used AVG since back in the day. It's worth acknowledging, however, that they have made a lot of waves by being honest, whereas others may be concealing the true cost of 'free' in complex legal jargon. They at least deserve a half-kudos for that...

    And I love the comments about going without AV and just relying on carefulness and common sense =)
    I've been tossing around the idea about going 'commando' for a while now, myself =)

    The real question, though: how can AV companies cover the cost of free software without resorting to this kind of crap? Is there a positive, non-invasive solution? Seems like it's always either advertisements, nag screens, or personal data collection.
  19. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 9,746   +3,712

    They can get their money by prosecuting those that create malware. We should benefit from their services, not be a source of income under a false sense of security. Since we are a source of income, why should they bother actually trying to stop the creation of malware? Since we are a source of income everyone under the sun wants to be an anti-malware author, that never actually gets anything accomplished. Laugh all you want at the free version, the paid version is just as much of a joke on us.

    Let me ask a question. What exactly is a national security breach? Is it a breach on the government or its people?
  20. Hexic

    Hexic TS Maniac Posts: 333   +165

    I've used Avast! for years. In my experiences - it is one of the lightest, non-instrusive, and easy-to-use antiviruses I've ever tried. And I've tried many over the years.

    Avast! also has been very well known historically for their up to date virus databases, and real-time detection of even newer releases of viruses. Overall, a very solid go-to AV in my opinion.
  21. DaveBG

    DaveBG TS Addict Posts: 304   +97

    If you are using AVG you are better of actually getting viruses instead of using it...
  22. Chris Westland

    Chris Westland TS Rookie

    AVG has always been a sleazy company. Their AVG SafeGuard Toolbar is widely advertised as a free download; it installs itself without the consent of the user as a bait-and-switch side effect of installing other applications. The toolbar program causes significant RAM issues and once installed, the toolbar is virtually impossible to remove: Its uninstaller does not function, and it re-installs if manually removed; it resets multiple system parameters and creates hidden files. It's like MacKeeper but worse. These guys should be sued out of business. Shame on them, and shame on this article for treating them as a legitimate business rather than the criminals that they are.
  23. nismo91

    nismo91 TS Evangelist Posts: 930   +33

    I switched to MSE the moment AVG's competitor - Avast started moving in similar direction 2 years ago. Based on their advertised user numbers, there are more than a million 'free' avast users. Making money should be easy for them.

    Knowing most "free" antivirus are hopeless, then I'd just stick with the antivirus that has been preloaded since Windows 8 that is Windows Defender (a.k.a MSE). I also used free malwarebytes for occasional scans, just in case MSE fails to catch some stuff.

    I can only recommend people to install some sort of ad-blocking and malware-blocking plugins for their chrome / firefox so they dont accidentally click into some sort of trap. It does not replace AV, but definitely help alot of novice users who likes to "install" virus themselves by clicking into some trap or flashy images in the web.
  24. learninmypc

    learninmypc TS Evangelist Posts: 7,675   +415

  25. Nitrotoxin

    Nitrotoxin TS Addict Posts: 114   +67

    In this day and age you should only need to install the OS once unless you are adding new hardware. Install the OS, update, install drivers, create an image. Never have to reinstall again. If it gets messed up re-image the hard drive. *drops the mic*

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