The hidden secret of free antiviruses revealed

21 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

AVG Updates Privacy Policy, Will Sell Your Non-Identifying Data.

We’ll give security firm AVG a little credit: At least it isn’t trying to be deceptive about what it might do with your data. A Reddit discussion has heard from furious users who spotted that the simplified policy effectively gives the company permission to sell its mailing lists to third parties for fun and profit.You have the right to opt out of the use or collection of certain data, including personal data and non-personal data, by following the instructions here*.

Remember when Spotify announced new privacy policies a while ago that seemed to suggest that it would be extremely invasive, and where they might need access to certain aspects of your mobile device even if it made no sense?If you are worried about your private data ending up in the hands of advertisers it is probably better to avoid installing the free version of AVG “security software.” A change to its privacy policy has confirmed that AVG thinks it is a great idea to collect “non-personal data” and sell it to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, its updated plan to collect your browser history (and a list of any searches you’ve made while using said browser)—”non-personal data,” as the company describes—does leave some users of its free apps a bit skeptical. AVG stated under ‘Do You Share My Data?’ in the Q&A about the new policy, which is automatically enforced on 15 October: “Yes, though when and how we share it depends on whether it is personal data or non-personal data. With users being accustomed to clicking “Agree” on license agreements and privacy policies without so much as glancing at the document; it is unlikely many will have knowledge of their acceptance of this practice.

AVG is one of the most popular choices, but some customers may be reconsidering their options following an update to the company’s user data privacy policy. But without the company’s voluntarily simplified policy, computers users might still be ignorant as to how other antivirus software can glean and make money from their private data. “At AVG, we value our customers and believe they should know exactly how their information is being used by us,” AVG Technologies chief legal officer Harvey Anderson said in a statement.

Changes to AVG’s privacy policy now states that the company can collect and sell non-personal data, including information about your device, the apps you use, cookies, and your internet search traffic, to name just a few. Free antivirus software, available for both Windows and Mac operating systems, are intended to block harmful programs that might harm a computer or steal the user’s information.

In addition, device security information – including password attributes and encryption levels – is collected, as well as “information about where our products and services are used, including approximate location, zip code, area code, time zone, and the URL you came from to reach our products”. AVG’s updated policy reads: “For instance, although we would consider your precise location to be personal data if stored separately, if we combined the locations of our users into a data set that could only tell us how many users were located in a particular country, we would not consider this aggregated information to be personally identifiable,” AVG’s privacy policy notes. It’s certainly better to inform customers about the type of data being collection about them, but this also suggests that similar tracking has been going on for a while without users fully in the know.

He told Wired that antivirus software runs on our devices with elevated privileges so it can detect and block malware, adware, spyware and other threats. Several Redditors have likened it to similar warnings in Windows 10’s Insider Programme which essentially say: ‘we can track you … but we won’t, unless we do.’ µ Data harvesting could be one way of doing it. “From the feelings I get from people in industry, including ex-students, this is probably not that rare, especially when you get something for free,” RMIT security and encryption researcher Associate Professor Serdar Boztas said.

A company spokesperson claimed it would anonymise the data — a process designed to strip away any identifying information that be used to expose the name of the user — before selling it to advertisers. “While AVG has not utilised data models to date, we may, in the future, provided that it is anonymous, non-personal data,” the spokesperson told Wired UK. “As you get the proliferation of big data tools with massive tracking and also other data sets, publicly or surreptitiously available, identifiability goes up and up and up,” Australian Privacy Foundation’s David Vaile said. “So the presumption should be that almost any form of technical data, if you provide it at a unit level rather than statistical aggregates, is going to be identifiable at some stage pretty quickly.” “I guess the only way these days to be 100 per cent private is, don’t use the internet, don’t use a mobile phone. The new privacy policy comes into effect on October 15th and continuing to use the software after that date means that customers agree to the data collection, unless they specifically opt-out.

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