Avast’s free antivirus software is used by millions of people around the world. But, as the saying goes, nothing in life is free. According to a joint investigation by PCMag and Motherboard, Avast is secretly selling its customer’s web browsing data through a subsidiary called Jumpshot. The software, named Avast Antivirus, tracks the user’s activity to find out what they are searching on Google, watching on Youtube and looking up on LinkedIn.
After the user’s personal data is collected, it then gets repackaged and sold by Jumpshot to tech giants. Some past, present and future Jumpshot clients include Google, Yelp, Microsoft, Pepsi, Sephora, Home Depot, Intuit, and many others. The company’s website says that “Jumpshot delivers digital intelligence from within the Internet’s most valuable walled gardens.” Some of these clients paid millions of dollars to Jumpshot for products that track user behavior on the web.
More than 435 million active users per month use Avast Antivirus to keep their devices safe from harm. On the other hand, Jumpshot says that it has data from 100 million devices. Avast says that it only collects data from users that opt-in. But various users told Motherboard that they did not know to opt-in meant that their data will get sold.
Avast Antivirus Users Are Misinformed
Avast said in a statement that Jumpshot does not collect personal information such as name, email address or contact details. Moreover, “users have always had the option to opt-out of sharing data with Jumpshot”. However, the problem lies in the fact that users are misinformed and don’t fully understand what giving their consent entails.
“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.”
“Measuring Every Search, Click and Buy”
The company’s website says that “Jumpshot 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.”
Avast’s data collection occurs through the software’s Web Shield feature, which will also scan URLs on your browser to detect malicious or dishonest websites.
The data that Jumpshot collects could show its clients how a user searched for a reMarkable Tablet on Google, clicked on a link that went to Amazon, added the item to their shopping cart, searched for other products and then finally bought the tablet.
Ad Block and Pop-Up Blocker Extensions
I can understand why a free antivirus program is tempting. You want to protect your computer from viruses, but paid-for software is too expensive. Before I knew better, I also used Avast Antivirus, just like everyone else. After learning that free antivirus programs don’t do much to stop viruses from getting installed on your computer, I uninstalled the software.
Now, while surfing the web, I am very careful about not clicking on links that seem suspicious. I also have ad-block and pop-up blocker extensions installed on my browser. The latter especially helps in stoping pop-up boxes from opening up in the background without my knowledge.
How do you protect your computer from viruses? Do you use paid-for or free antivirus software? If you use Avast Antivirus, will you be uninstalling it now or just opting out of sharing data? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below! Continue to check out Maticstoday for the latest news items, product reviews, security practices, and video game discussions.
Javeria Qureshi is a Content Writer and Web Developer at Codematics Inc. In her free time, you can find her watching Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, reading books or drinking chai. Search for her articles under the hashtag #JQArticle on Twitter or LinkedIn.