It is an old saw on the internet that if you don’t pay for a product then you are the product. The maker of wildly popular free anti-virus software, AGV, has now confirmed this wisdom by announcing that it will sell users data to third parties.
“We use data to improve those products and services… and to make money from our free offerings so that we can continue to offer them for free.”
AVG claims that private details will be anonymized (into what it calls ‘non-personal data’), and/or used only in aggregate form. However, data that AVG considers to be ‘non-personal’ includes:
- ‘Advertising ID associated with your device;
- Browsing and search history, including meta data;
- Internet service provider or mobile network you use to connect to our products; and
- Information regarding other applications you may have on your device and how they are use’
AVG promises to remove information that can personally identify users from the browsing history or search history, but even assuming it can do this effectively (which is by no means certain), it still means that details such users’ IP address’, unique Advertising ID, and even email addresses can be sold to AVG’s ‘partners,
“We may share some of your personal data, such as your email address, with certain selected resellers, distributors and other partners to enable them to contact you on our behalf about products, services or offers we believe are important to you.”
It is also worth noting that even if anonymized, metadata is far from harmless, and can be used to provide scarily accurate analysis of data sets (after all, why do you think the NSA et al. are so keen to collect it?), and is, anyway, not nearly as anonymous as is claimed.
“We do not, and will not, sell personally identifiable data to anyone, including advertisers.”