The well known antivirus program Avast has been found to be selling users data to giant companies like Home Depot, Microsoft and Pepsi, and even corporations as big as Google, a joint investigation by Motherboard and PCMag has established these findings. Avast reportedly scraped data from its antivirus software and handed it off to its subsidiary Jumpshot, which repackaged the data and sold it, sometimes for millions of dollars.
While Avast required users to opt-in to this data sharing, the investigation found that many were unaware that Jumpshot was selling their data. It has also been reported that the default setting for opting into this feature is on by default. Thus actually requires you to opt-out.
It has been reported that this investigation incriminates a lot of big name companies. We don’t know for certain which are past, present or potential clients, but the list includes : Expedia, Intuit, Keurig, Condé Nast, Sephora, Loreal according to sources, and there are also other well known names on the list. Microsoft has confirmed they don’t have a current relationship with the company. Yelp said Jumpshot was “engaged on a one-time basis,” and Google did not respond to PGMag’s request for clarity on the subject.
Apparently, some of the data being sold includes everything from Google searches, Google Map location information, activity on companies’ LinkedIn pages, YouTube video hits and data on people visiting porn websites as well.
The data is supposedly supplied with anonymity and does not include personal information, like names or contact info, but some professionals in the field, including myself, fear that it may be possible to de-anonymize those users.
One product Jumpshot markets; is an “All Clicks Feed”, which essentially tracks its users clicks across websites in precise detail. It’s advertised as “Every search. Every click. Every buy. On every site.” At least one customer, New York-based marketing firm named : Omnicom Media Group, has apparently signed up for the tool. According to Motherboard and PCMag, Omnicom paid Jumpshot $2,075,000 for access to the data in 2019.
Of course, if this doesn’t raise your suspicions and concerns for using products offered by Avast. Let me tell you that this isn’t the first time Avast has run into data collection trouble either.
In the past, actually Just a couple months ago, Mozilla pulled Avast’s Online Security and SafePrice extensions for Firefox, as well as Avast’s AVG-branded equivalents, after they were found to be collecting much more data than necessary. Collecting and selling off this highly detailed info is especially troubling coming from Avast, a company whose primary function is to protect its users, but subsequently selling off user data on a whim.