Avast, one of the leading providers of anti-virus and internet security solutions, is facing flak for engaging in some shady data business.
An investigation carried out by PCMag and Motherboard has revealed that the company, which should be protecting data has been collecting and selling it to data-hungry big tech companies like Google and Microsoft.
Here's all you need to know about it.
Data collected from computers, sold for millions
As noted by the outlets, Avast mined data from the computers of people using its antivirus software and then transferred the same to its subsidiary Jumpshot.
Then, Jumpshot packaged all the information into bundles and sold it to big tech companies looking for customer data to improve their products and target ads.
In some cases, the information was sold for millions of dollars.
Google, Microsoft, Pepsi among the buyers
The other side of this data deal included leading industry giants like Google, Home Depot, Microsoft, Pepsi, Expedia, Yelp, Intuit, Keurig, Condé Nast, Sephora, Loreal, and others.
Notably, the information they all purchased included a lot of stuff, starting from simple Google searches, location searches on Maps as well as activity on LinkedIn pages, YouTube, and porn websites.
Apparently, the information was anonymized
In order to collect the data in question, Avast asked its users to opt-in to data sharing. However, in many cases, the users were not aware that their information would be sold to the third parties.
Also, even though the data batches were cleared of all personal information before being sold, experts believe some of the data could be de-anonymized to identify people.
Some data was bundled with Jumpshot's "All Clicks Feed"
Additionally, in some cases, the data collected via Avast anti-virus was re-packaged with a dedicated tracking product offered by Jumpshot - All Clicks Feed.
The tool allowed potential clients, who supposedly paid millions of dollars for this service, to track the activity of users across websites in precise detail, down to their every single click/purchase on every site.
Companies buying data distancing themselves from the matter
Following the revelation of Avast's data collection and sharing, the firms named in the data deal have tried to distance themselves from the matter.
Microsoft, for instance, claimed that it doesn't have a current relationship with Jumpshot, while the team at Yelp claimed that they engaged in the deal only "on a one-time basis."
Google, meanwhile, has still not commented on the whole case.
Avast has already embroiled in some data-related matters
This isn't the first data-scraping case that Avast is dealing with. Last month, Mozilla took down the company's extensions from Firefox after they were found to be collecting more data than required. Even Avast's AVG-branded add-ons were pulled.