Avast, a popular maker of free anti-virus software being employed by almost 435 million mobiles, Windows and Mac harvested its users’ sensitive data via browser plugins and sold it to third parties such as Microsoft, Google, Pepsi, IBM, Home Depot, and many others, according to the findings of an investigation jointly carried out by PCMag and Motherboard.
As per the sources, the investigation basically relied on leaked data; documents used to further the investigation belonged to Jumpshot which is a subsidiary of Avast. The data was extracted by the Avast anti-virus software itself and then repackaged by Jumpshot into various products which were sold to big companies as the report specified, “Potential clients include Google, Yelp, Microsoft, McKinsey, Pepsi, Sephora, Home Depot, Conde Nast, Intuit, and many others.”
“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,” other company documents found.
Allegedly, Avast has been keeping a track of personal details such as exact time and date when a user starts surfing a website, the digital content being viewed by him and his browsing and search history. As per the findings, the information sold by Jumpshot includes Google Maps searches, Google search engine searches, YouTube videos viewed by users, activity that took place on companies’ LinkedIn handles and porn websites visited by people. The data contained no traces of personal information of people like their names or email addresses, however, the investigators at Vice pointed out how the access to such precise browsing data can potentially lead back to the identification of the user anyway.
When the investigation reports were made public, Jumpshot stopped receiving
any browsing-related data harvested by extensions as Avast terminated the operations, however, currently, the popular anti-virus maker is being investigated for collecting user data asides from browser plug-ins.
While Google denied commenting on the matter, IBM told Vice that they have no record of dealing with Avast’s subsidiary, Jumpshot. Meanwhile, Microsoft made it clear that at present they are not having any relationship with Jumpshot.