Jan 30, 2020 - Technology

Antivirus provider Avast shutters controversial marketing arm

Avast is shutting down a controversial subsidiary that shared anonymized user data with marketing clients.

Driving the news: For years, Avast, which offers users free antivirus services, sold user data to marketers through a subsidiary, according to a report from Motherboard and PC Magazine.

  • Jumpshot, owned by Avast, provided clients with a trove of detailed user profiles that were technically anonymized but contained browsing histories, device IDs and other potentially identifying information.

What they're saying: Avast initially responded by saying that users have always been able to opt out of having their data tracked by Jumpshot.

  • After the coverage sparked criticism, the company posted a longer defense and said it has shifted from the opt-out scheme to one that invites users to opt in instead.
  • Wednesday, CEO Ondrej Vlcek posted an apology and said he was shutting down Jumpshot immediately.

The bottom line: Antivirus vendors are in the business of protecting users from risk. Marketers sharing user data is a source of risk (as well as a privacy concern, even with "anonymization").

Our thought bubble: If you need an antivirus tool, it's probably the kind of software that's worth paying for upfront so the provider doesn't have to scrounge for shadier sources of revenue.

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