- Avast and AVG extensions are violating web browsers’ policy
- They are collecting detailed user browsing data, far beyond what is required
- Claims suggest that they are selling it to third parties
- The malicious extensions are Avast Online Security, AVG Online Security, Avast SafePrice and AVG SafePrice
- Mozilla and Opera took down these extensions from their store
- Chrome yet to take any action
Data is the new currency in today’s time. There is a whole business where companies collect detailed data about people and sell it to businesses who then, target people accordingly and convert them into consumers through ads. Now if you were to know that someone was tracking you without your consent or knowledge, how would you feel? We say, betrayed. And that is what Avast and AVG are found to be doing. Avast and AVG browser extensions are found to be collecting detailed user information that is not required for the extensions to function. Let us get in detail and find out what their motive is behind this data theft.
Why you should stop using Avast and AVG extensions
Wladimir Palant, the creator of the AdBlock Plus ad-blocking extension released a report saying that he found these extensions to collecting a disturbing amount of data about the user and storing it on uib.ff.avast.com. These extensions include:
- Avast Online Security
- AVG Online Security
- Avast SafePrice
- AVG SafePrice
While the first two extensions protect users from visiting malicious pages, the other two help users in price comparisons, offers and discounts when they are shopping. By the nature of their function, the online security extensions do not need to store anything other than the hostname and path (that’s what Microsoft’s Windows Defender Browser Protection browser extension collects). But Avast and its subsidiary, AVG are tracking every single detail about users, from which web page they are browsing to how much time they are spending on that. The shocking details of what they are tracking are as follows:
- the full address of the page you are browsing
- query part and anchor data of the webpage you are on
- page title
- Referral URL
- how did you get on the current web page (through a bookmark/link/entering URL directly)
- window identifier and tab identifier
- timestamp of page to know if you visited this page before
- country code
- a unique user ID
- your browser type and version number
- your operating system type and version number
According to more sources, users have found that Avast is indeed behind this spying operation for monetary gains. According to Bob, the data fields collected by the extensions have a timestamp that is precise to a millisecond and the full URL stored that we have mentioned above in the list, sometimes contains sensitive information like postcode, car registration, phone number etc.
Why are Avast and AVG extensions spying on you
Take a look at Jumpshot, a business owned by Avast. When Palant discovered this, everything made sense to him. Jumpshot sells consumer online behaviour data and claims that their data is detailed, precise and vast. In other words, it is making money off of your internet surfing. At the end of the day, you get betrayed by the extensions that were meant to protect you and become the target of unwanted advertisements by companies who pay to know what you do on the web. But don’t get us wrong here. Tracking is not a new thing. A lot of online services track you, but they do it with consent. The real culprit here is only Avast and its subsidiary, AVG who did not take user’s consent before tracking their behaviour. They claimed that they do, but users have confirmed otherwise.
What can you do if you are being spied on?
While Mozilla and Opera have taken down all the 4 Avast extensions from its web store, Google has not taken any action yet. Mozilla, however, has not blacklisted the extensions which means that the extensions will continue its spying operations on those who are already using it unless they uninstall them manually. To ensure you are safe from such snooping activities, you could take the following steps:
- If you are using these extensions on your browser, you can uninstall them.
- If you are using Avast Secure Browser, the security extension will be installed by default, and you cannot uninstall it.
- You can either use a more trusted browser or a more trusted browser protection software/extension.
- Before installing an extension for your browser, be conscious of what permissions you are granting them and for what purpose.
- Keep an eye out on our news section to stay updated about the issue.
What do you think about this issue? Let us know in the comments. We suggest you share this news with all your friends to alert them about their privacy theft. If you like this news, you could get such important news articles in your inbox every day. Just subscribe to our newspaper and you are good to go! No charges, no spam!
Stay tuned, stay safe.