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.

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