Popular antivirus program, Avast, has been cashing in by selling its customers web browsing history. A joint investigation by PCMag and Motherboard found the antivirus company selling its customers’ highly sensitive web browsing data to many of the worlds largest companies. Through leaked company documents and contracts, the investigation found Avast was running a side business along with its primary Antivirus product. What’s worse is that the investigation found documents which showed that Avast intended to keep this quiet, such as confidentiality agreements intended to hide both Avast and the client companies purchasing the data.
The Avast subsidiary program responsible for the harvesting and sale of client’s internet browsing histories is called Jumpshot. Their sales pitch for selling your internet history is “Every search. Every click. Every buy. On every site.” That pitch convinced companies such as Home Depot®, Microsoft®, Pepsi and McKinsey to purchase the data, often for millions. One product that Jumpshot sold to big-name clients included an “All Clicks Feed”, which tracked user behavior in stunning detail across websites visited.
Avast has more than 435 million active monthly users, but they claim that the data comes from roughly 100 million subscribers who “opted-in” to having their browsing data sold. Many users contacted by Motherboard claimed they had no idea of opting into anything, and many vented their frustrations publicly on the company’s Twitter page. Avast responded with the blanket statement: “Please be assured, Jumpshot does not acquire any personally identifiable information from our users. We are fully compliant with GDPR & the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Users may choose to adjust their privacy levels using the settings available in our products.”.
Continued pressure from the public and in particular outraged Avast subscribers forced the hand of the antivirus giant to change course and shut down the Jumpshot program entirely. Avast announced the decision to shut down Jump-shots data collection activities effective immediately with a statement form the CEO, Ondrej Vleck, on Thursday morning. The statement said that the board of directors have decided to “terminate the Jumpshot data collection and wind down Jumpshot’s operations, with immediate effect.”.