Author Topic: AVG selling search and browsing data  (Read 954 times)

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BillB

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AVG selling search and browsing data
« on: September 29, 2015, 03:52:50 PM »
This is a transcript of a revelation of AVG selling user data. Listen from about 0:31:30 at https://twit.tv/shows/security-now/episodes/526?autostart=false.

Transcript from https://www.grc.com/sn/sn-526.htm.

Quote
Okay. Now this was chilling. There was a lot of controversy generated by this. AVG, the number three most popular antivirus tool that offers a free version which many people use. Number one most popular is Microsoft. Number two is Avast. And number three is AVG. They've changed their privacy policy, notified their users that a new policy becomes effective as of October 15th, so about three weeks from now, really raising hackles within the privacy community because the new policy states that users of the AVG antivirus will be permitting AVG to sell search and browser history data to third-party advertisers in order to make money from its antivirus software.

Now, the problem is that AV software inherently runs in our system with elevated privileges so that it's able to detect and block malware, adware, spyware, and other threats. And AVG is one of the AV suites which we've discussed in the past that installs its own root certificate into users' machines, like Superfish was caught doing, specifically to allow it to intercept, decrypt, and inspect all web browser traffic. So we're not saying anything nefarious is going on, but essentially what they've decided is that they, too, are sort of going down this path of monetizing the habits of their users.

Now, what's really confusing is that an AVG spokesman explained that, quote, "any nonpersonal data collected and sold to advertisers would be cleaned and anonymized, making it impossible to link it back to individual users." And then the spokesman said, "Many companies do this type of collection every day and do not tell their users." So they're trying to claim some cred for, like, being right upfront with the fact that they're going to start monetizing by selling their users' search and browser history data.

Well, the problem is it's only valuable to advertisers if there's some way to tie it to users. So while AVG may be sanitizing it in some way, it must be that things like the cookies of the queries, which may not contain overtly user identity data, is the token that the advertiser has previously assigned to this person in order to associate them. Meaning that selling data that couldn't be tied back to the user wouldn't generate any revenue.

So it's got to be that essentially, when you're using AVG in the future, essentially they're now tracking you and saying that they're going to monetize this and sell this to advertisers. Which just creates another pipeline for this kind of information, you know, browsing and search history is what they're talking about, to sort of this unseen advertising tracking database facility. So I just wanted to make sure that our users who may be using AVG were aware that this was something that was going to be happening starting the beginning of next month.


Copyright (c) 2015 by Steve Gibson and Leo Laporte. SOME RIGHTS RESERVED
 
This work is licensed for the good of the Internet Community under the Creative Commons License v2.5. See the following Web page for details: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.5/


dewey

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Re: AVG selling search and browsing data
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2015, 04:20:38 PM »
Google, Bing, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay, GMail, Facebook, and almost any web site that shows you ads, and many that don't, are doing the same thing.  And, unless you look close, read 4pt. text and legalbabel, you would never know what they are doing with your data.  At least they are telling you up front and if you don't want to be tracked, pay for their product. You don't get nothin' for free.  Want a free antivirus program, pony up some info.

I'm not saying it is good; I stay way-away and use ad blockers, always surf in privacy mode and do not allow cookies if given the option.  Still, you are going to get tracked and there is not much you can do about it unless you stop using the Internet.

One thing Mr. Gibson left out of his transcript is that AVG has said you can turn the data tracking off. An AVG spokesperson told Wired, "Those users who do not want us to use non-personal data in this way will be able to turn it off, without any decrease in the functionality our apps will provide..."

My 2 bits...of data
« Last Edit: September 29, 2015, 04:25:34 PM by dewey »