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Leaked: Avast antivirus is selling highly sensitive web browsing data to the world's biggest companies

by Joseph Cox on
Jan 27 2020

An Avast antivirus subsidiary sells 'Every search. Every click. Every buy. On every site.' Its clients have included Home Depot, Google, Microsoft, Pepsi, and McKinsey.

An antivirus program used by hundreds of millions of people around the world is selling highly sensitive web browsing data to many of the world's biggest companies, a joint investigation by Motherboard and PCMag has found. Our report relies on leaked user data, contracts, and other company documents that show the sale of this data is both highly sensitive and is in many cases supposed to remain confidential between the company selling the data and the clients purchasing it.

The documents, from a subsidiary of the antivirus giant Avast called Jumpshot, shine new light on the secretive sale and supply chain of peoples' internet browsing histories. They show that the Avast antivirus program installed on a person's computer collects data, and that Jumpshot repackages it into various different products that are then sold to many of the largest companies in the world. Some past, present, and potential clients include Google, Yelp, Microsoft, McKinsey, Pepsi, Sephora, Home Depot, Condé Nast, Intuit, and many others. Some clients paid millions of dollars for products that include a so-called "All Clicks Feed," which can track user behavior, clicks, and movement across websites in highly precise detail.

Avast claims to have more than 435 million active users per month, and Jumpshot says it has data from 100 million devices. Avast collects data from users that opt-in and then provides that to Jumpshot, but multiple Avast users told Motherboard they were not aware Avast sold browsing data, raising questions about how informed that consent is.

The data obtained by Motherboard and PCMag includes Google searches, lookups of locations and GPS coordinates on Google Maps, people visiting companies' LinkedIn pages, particular YouTube videos, and people visiting porn websites. It is possible to determine from the collected data what date and time the anonymized user visited YouPorn and PornHub, and in some cases what search term they entered into the porn site and which specific video they watched.

An infographic showing the supply chain of browsing data from Avast through to Jumpshot's clients. Image: Motherboard

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Level 53
However, the data collection is ongoing, the source and documents indicate. Instead of harvesting information through software attached to the browser, Avast is doing it through the anti-virus software itself.

Now I finally know wholly, why I had never put my trust in Avast, never downloading it.
Bad antivirus I knew, but bad privacy practices - this I didn't know until today.
So I have a natural gift for foresight...


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Level 53
Open source companies build trust by sharing the entirety of their codebase to the public. If the buyer has a question about the software, they can audit it themselves and communicate with the authors. This transparency builds trust.
Enterprise buyers use third parties to buy software. They consult Gartner, Forrester, and others to establish trust in vendors. These research agencies diligence software products directly and through surveys. This is the reason analyst relations are so important. Presence on the magic quadrant confers trustworthiness.
Of course, trust doesn't stop with marketing. Slimy sales practices provokes distrust. Shoddy product quality erodes trust. Slow or opaque customer support also erodes trust. Every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to engender or erode trust.
Brands are so valuable because they are the encapsulation of years long efforts to engender trust. That's why Apple's brand is worth about one-quarter of their market cap. Trust accelerates sales cycles, creates long term defensibility, and increases the value of a business overall. It's the core purpose of marketing.
- from
Trust is at the Core of Software Marketing article on Trust is at the Core of Software Marketing

Antivirus softwares are not open source...
I don't have antivirus...


Level 3
Management is looking for ways to get a nice pay check, but they do not realize, it will be just a temporary one.
Sadly, this will bring down Avast, AVG and CCleaner and all people, who worked hard for years to improve them.

I was, what you'd call, a lifelong customer of AVG. Having used their paid products from AVG 6.x days all the way to the day they got bought out by Avast.

After the buyout, I noticed a lot of changes in AVG and none for the better. Hangups, bugs, crashes, shady extensions, constant pushing for other AVG products/PC TuneUp, tech support that went from being well-trained and professional to BPO outsourced to Asian firms, and finally these privacy concerns.

My license still lasts a decent bit, but I am done with AVG. The market share results of OPSWAT released recently also say the same, Avast and AVG both went down after the acquisition. I am not sure what the management is thinking.