Avast accused of Selling Customer Browsing Data to Advertisers

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has charged Avast with selling customer browsing data to third-party advertisers. Avast is based in Europe. It offers security products for endpoint security.

  • Avast is accused of selling customer browsing data to over 100 third parties using its subsidiary company.
  • The customer data was collected by Avast, unfairly, through its browser extension and anti-virus software.
  • Avast did not disclose or adequately inform consumers that it would sell their detailed, re-identifiable browsing data.
  • The user data was sold to third parties without user consent.
  • The browsing data has been sold by Avast since 2014. 

Avast collected and sold user browsing data to third parties. The data sold included the following:

  • unique identifier for each web browser
  • every website visited by the user
  • precise timestamps
  • type of device and browser used by the consumer
  • city, state, and country of the consumer

Avast claims that it used special tools to remove consumer and user identifying information before transferring the data to its clients.

However, the FTC claims that Avast failed to sufficiently anonymize consumers’ browsing information before selling the data through its Jumpshot subsidiary.

The FTC said that Avast deceived users by claiming that the software would protect consumers’ privacy by blocking third party tracking, but failed to adequately inform consumers that it would sell their detailed, re-identifiable browsing data.

“Avast promised users that its products would protect the privacy of their browsing data but delivered the opposite,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Avast’s bait-and-switch surveillance tactics compromised consumers’ privacy and broke the law.” 

Avast failed to inform consumers that it collected and sold their browsing data, the company claimed that its products would decrease tracking on the Internet.

The FTC has imposed a $16.5 million penalty on Avast. The amount will be used by the FTC to provide redress to consumers. The FTC order also prohibits Avast and its subsidiaries from misrepresenting how it uses the data it collects. 

Other provisions of the proposed order include:

  • Prohibition on Selling Browsing Data: Avast will be prohibited from selling or licensing any browsing data from Avast-branded products to third parties for advertising purposes;
  • Obtain Affirmative Express Consent: The company must obtain affirmative express consent from consumers before selling or licensing browsing data from non-Avast products to third parties for advertising purposes;
  • Data and Model Deletion: Avast must delete the web browsing information transferred to Jumpshot and any products or algorithms Jumpshot derived from that data;
  • Notify Consumers: Avast will be required to inform consumers whose browsing information was sold to third parties without their consent about the FTC’s actions against the company; and
  • Implement Privacy Program: Avast will be required to implement a comprehensive privacy program that addresses the misconduct highlighted by the FTC.

Meanwhile, Avast has released the following statement:

“Avast has reached a settlement with the FTC to resolve its investigation of Avast’s past provision of customer data to its Jumpshot subsidiary that Avast voluntarily closed in January of 2020. We are committed to our mission of protecting and empowering people’s digital lives. While we disagree with the FTC’s allegations and characterization of the facts, we are pleased to resolve this matter and look forward to continuing to serve our millions of customers around the world.”

Important links –

FTC statement about Avast’s selling user data to third party clients.

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Rajesh Dhawan

Rajesh Dhawan is a technology professional who loves to blog about smart wearables, Cloud computing and Microsoft technologies. He loves to break complex problems into manageable chunks of meaningful information.