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Is your antivirus really spotting you?



  An eye for digital surveillance.
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Avast collects the browsing history of its users and sells the data to third parties, according to a joint investigation by PCMag and motherboard. This is just the latest example of collecting data about free antivirus software. After all, that free antivirus must somehow make money.

Update : On January 30, 2020, Avast announced that it would close its subsidiary Jumpshot, which sold its users' browsing history to marketers.

Avast & # 39; s collects and sells your browsing history

Do you use the Avast antivirus program? Avast collects your web browser activity as standard and offers it to marketers through a subsidiary named Jumpshot. Companies paying Avast can provide full & # 39; clickstream data & # 39; to see what Avast users do online. Here's how Michael Kan places it on PCMag:

The data collected is so detailed that customers can see the individual clicks that users make on their browsing sessions, including the time to the millisecond. And although the collected data is never linked to a person's name, email address, or IP address, each user history is nevertheless assigned to an ID called the device ID, which remains unless the user Avast antivirus product removed.

Avast says this data is & # 39; anonymous & # 39; but PCMag and Motherboard could link it to people. For example, if you know which Amazon user has purchased a specific product at a specific second on a specific date, you can use the & # 39; anonymous & # 39; identify the person and then look back through his browsing history.

Avast Harvests the Data via its Desktop Antivirus

If Avast is installed with the default settings, your browsing history is sold to marketers via Jumpshot. This data is not collected via the Avast browser extension. Instead, it is collected through the desktop desktop antivirus application.

When you install Avast, you are asked if you want to share data. Most people on & # 39; I agree & # 39; clicked, probably not everything realized either.

 Jumpshot request to share data in Avast Free Antivirus.

If you have Avast installed, you can open the Avast and go to menu> Settings> General> Personal privacy to determine what information is collected and shared. Disable the data sharing options here.

We recommend that you simply remove Avast. But if you want to keep it installed and disable data collection, do this.

 Options for sharing personal privacy information in Avast.

Browser extensions are only part of the problem

Antivirus software often bundles browser extensions that collect detailed data for marketing purposes. In October 2019, Adblock Plus maker Wladimir Palant cataloged the way different Avast browser extensions collect data about people's browsing history. An AVG browser extension also did the same – that's not surprising, because Avast bought AVG a few years ago.

Google and Mozilla have worked hard and removed the browser extensions from the Chrome Web Store and Mozilla Addons site until Avast made some changes. They can now be downloaded again. It is not clear how much data collection was limited, but Avast is also "more transparent" in its privacy policy.

Although Google and Mozilla can recognize what the browser extensions of an antivirus company can do, no one stops a company like Avast from collecting data using the desktop application. That may be a reason why Avast is collecting such data through its desktop application.

We do not recommend installing the browser extensions of your antivirus, but you cannot prevent privacy issues by avoiding the browser extensions.

RELATED: Do not use browser extensions to your antivirus: they may actually make you less secure

Free antivirus software must be paid somehow

Free antivirus software must make a profit somehow, so it's no surprise that companies like Avast have switched to collecting and making money with their customers' data.

In the past, Avast has even included a "shopping" feature that has added advertisements to other web pages while browsing. . Avast no longer does that, but the data collection does not feel completely out of character.

As we indicated in 2015, free antivirus software is really no longer & # 39; free & # 39 ;. Many antivirus companies have switched to changing your default search engine, switching your browser's homepage and integrating additional software offers into their installation programs. Nowadays, many other antivirus programs are probably tracking your browsing and probably selling that data.

RELATED: Beware: free antivirus is not really free anymore

What Antivirus software do you not follow?

 The Windows security screen against viruses and threats on Windows 10

Not every free antivirus necessarily follows you. We have not investigated all antivirus programs. Some offer a free trial version that does not collect and sell data, instead you try to sell the company's paid antivirus product.

For example, Wladimir Palant, who disclosed the data collection in Avast and AVG's browser extensions, said in response to a comment that he has found no indication that Kaspersky & # 39; s free antivirus is spying on its users. However, in 2019, Kaspersky previously injected a unique ID into web browser traffic that allowed users to be identified online.

We recommend Microsoft & # 39; s Windows Defender, which is integrated into Windows 10. Microsoft & # 39; s antivirus does not have an agenda that goes beyond keeping malware off your computer. It does not follow your web browser. It does not attempt to sell additional software, although Microsoft does offer more advanced security software contracts for companies.

We also love and recommend Malwarebytes, which we have found to do a good job of detecting and removing unwanted software. The free version of Malwarebytes cannot run in the background. It only offers manual scans. Malwarebytes earns its money with Premium subscriptions instead of following its users.

RELATED: What is the best antivirus for Windows 10? (Is Windows Defender good enough?)


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