Avast has never made its data collection practices a secret, but a joint report by Vice’s Motherboard and PCMag has revealed that the supposedly anonymized data can still be traced back to specific individuals.
After sifting through leaked user data and company documents, the report published today gave an unobstructed view of the type of data Avast–specifically its subsidiary Jumpshot–collected and sold. Unsurprisingly, some are deeply personal.
The data type Avast hoarded wasn’t the issue, but rather their nuance. In one example, Avast was able to precisely pinpoint a user’s Amazon purchase down to the minute. PCMag argued that Amazon could easily use this information to pinpoint a specific user. Once it’s got a match, the company could then link the user profile to the device ID, which is a constant identifier assigned by Avast for activities generated from the same device.
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People took to social media quickly after the news broke to share their thoughts.
Avast allegedly avoided selling information with the device ID attached for that reason, but in 2018, that’s exactly what it sold to marketing provider Omnicom Media Group. The package also contained the users’ age, gender, and clicking timestamps down to the millisecond.
In December 2019, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox banned the Avast browser extension over its data collection practices. Following the ban, Avast issued a statement maintaining that it scrubbed all collected data free of personal information. It then continued to collect data through its antivirus software installed in the Windows operating system. These bits of data range from Google and YouTube searches to location and porn habits.
On its website, Avast stated that it has more than 400 million users distributed across 59 countries.
Jumpshot listed IBM, Microsoft, and Google as companies that it has previously worked with. In addition, PCMag also listed Nestle, Purina, Intuit and others as clients.
IT World Canada has reached out to Google, Microsoft, and IBM for comment, but none were immediately available for comment.