Avast ordered to pay $16.5 million for misuse of consumer information


The Federal Commerce Fee would require software program supplier Avast to pay $16.5 million and prohibit the corporate from promoting or licensing any internet searching information for promoting functions to settle prices that the corporate and its subsidiaries offered such data to 3rd events after promising that its merchandise would defend customers from on-line monitoring.

Avast sold browsing data

In its grievance, the FTC says that Avast, based mostly in the UK, via its Czech subsidiary, unfairly collected customers’ searching data via the corporate’s browser extensions and antivirus software program, saved it indefinitely, and offered it with out sufficient discover and with out shopper consent.

The FTC additionally prices that Avast deceived customers by claiming that the software program would defend customers’ privateness by blocking third get together monitoring, however didn’t adequately inform customers that it will promote their detailed, re-identifiable searching information. The FTC alleged Avast offered that information to greater than 100 third events via its subsidiary, Jumpshot.

“Avast promised customers that its merchandise would defend the privateness of their searching information however delivered the alternative,” mentioned Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Shopper Safety. “Avast’s bait-and-switch surveillance techniques compromised customers’ privateness and broke the legislation.”

Since a minimum of 2014, the FTC says Avast has been amassing customers’ searching data via browser extensions, which may modify or prolong the performance of customers’ internet browsers, and thru antivirus software program put in on customers’ computer systems and cell units. This searching information included details about customers’ internet searches and the webpages they visited—revealing customers’ non secular beliefs, well being considerations, political leanings, location, monetary standing, visits to child-directed content material and different delicate data.

In accordance with the grievance, not solely did Avast fail to tell customers that it collected and offered their searching information, the corporate claimed that its merchandise would lower monitoring on the web. For instance, when customers looked for Avast’s browser extensions, they have been advised Avast would “block annoying monitoring cookies that accumulate information in your searching actions” and promised that its desktop software program would “defend your privateness. Cease anybody and everybody from attending to your pc.”

After Avast purchased Jumpshot, a competitor antivirus software program supplier, the corporate rebranded the agency as an analytics firm. From 2014 to 2020, Jumpshot offered searching data that Avast had collected from customers to quite a lot of shoppers together with promoting, advertising and marketing and information analytics firms and information brokers, based on the grievance.

The corporate claimed it used a particular algorithm to take away figuring out data earlier than transferring the info to its shoppers. The FTC, nonetheless, says the corporate didn’t sufficiently anonymize customers’ searching data that it offered in non-aggregate type via varied merchandise. For instance, its information feeds included a novel identifier for every internet browser it collected data from and will embody each web site visited, exact timestamps, sort of machine and browser, and the town, state, and nation.

When Avast did describe its information sharing practices, Avast falsely claimed it will solely switch customers’ private data in mixture and nameless type, based on the grievance.

The FTC says the corporate failed to ban a few of its information consumers from re-identifying Avast customers based mostly on information that Jumpshot supplied. And, even the place Avast’s contracts included such prohibitions, the contracts have been worded in a means that enabled information consumers to affiliate non-personally identifiable data with Avast customers’ searching data. In reality, a number of the Jumpshot merchandise have been designed to permit shoppers to trace particular customers and even to affiliate particular customers—and their searching histories—with different data these shoppers had.

For instance, as alleged within the grievance, Jumpshot entered right into a contract with Omnicom, an promoting conglomerate, which said that Jumpshot would offer Omnicom with an “All Clicks Feed” for 50% of its prospects in the USA, United Kingdom, Mexico, Australia, Canada, and Germany. In accordance with the contract, Omnicom was permitted to affiliate Avast’s information with information brokers’ sources of information, on a person consumer foundation.

Along with paying $16.5 million, which is predicted for use to supply redress to customers, the proposed order, will prohibit Avast and its subsidiaries from misrepresenting the way it makes use of the info it collects.

Different provisions of the proposed order embody:

  • Prohibition on promoting searching information: Avast will probably be prohibited from promoting or licensing any searching information from Avast-branded merchandise to 3rd events for promoting functions;
  • Receive affirmative specific consent: The corporate should acquire affirmative specific consent from customers earlier than promoting or licensing searching information from non-Avast merchandise to 3rd events for promoting functions;
  • Information and mannequin deletion: Avast should delete the net searching data transferred to Jumpshot and any merchandise or algorithms Jumpshot derived from that information;
  • Notify customers: Avast will probably be required to tell customers whose searching data was offered to 3rd events with out their consent concerning the FTC’s actions in opposition to the corporate; and
  • Implement privateness program: Avast will probably be required to implement a complete privateness program that addresses the misconduct highlighted by the FTC.


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