An anti-virus program keeps your computer clean. It sells your data, too

Some of the world’s biggest companies are buying web-browsing data from the maker of popular anti-virus software.

January 27, 2020

An offshoot of the cybersecurity titan Avast Antivirus sells its users’ web-browsing data to some of the world’s biggest companies, according to an investigation by Motherboard and PCMag.

What kind of data? Practically everything. Keywords people punch into Google, YouTube clips they watch, and, um, X-rated videos they ogle.

Nervous yet? Don’t go scrubbing that Chrome history

The data doesn’t include personal information, so users can’t be identified by name. Even so, the market for the data is sprawling, and corporate America wants a piece of the pie.

  • Avast claims to have 435m+ active users per month.
  • The subsidiary that collects the data, Jumpshot, says it has information from 100m+ devices.
  • Google, Pepsi, and Home Depot are all past, present, or potential clients.

Here’s why it’s important: Jumpshot’s data may not be totally anonymous — in fact, it’s hard to completely de-identify any data.

In the big picture, the investigation is just more evidence of how huge tech companies are making money off your digital footprints. As Jumpshot itself once boasted: “Every search. Every click. Every buy. On every site.”

Update: The investigation said initially that Sephora was a Jumpshot client. After it was published, Sephora said that wasn’t the case.

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