Avast CEO Says Company Will Shutter Data-Sucking Subsidiary, Apologizes for the Data-Sucking

Illustration for article titled Avast CEO Says Company Will Shutter Data-Sucking Subsidiary, Apologizes for the Data-Sucking

The “global leader” in cybersecurity—Avast—announced today it would be shutting down its analytics arm Jumpshot that was recently found harvesting the data of the hundreds of millions installing Avast’s free browser extension. Apparently, the optics of a company that prides itself on privacy-forward approaches and honoring user’s personal security exploiting users’ data for profit was just a bridge too far.

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“Protecting people is Avast’s top priority and must be embedded in everything we do in our business and in our products. Anything to the contrary is unacceptable,” wrote Avast CEO Ondrej Vlcek in a statement released yesterday.

“For these reasons, I—together with our board of directors—have decided to terminate the Jumpshot data collection and wind down Jumpshot’s operations, with immediate effect.”

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Like many popular adtech companies, Jumpshot relied on user data gleaned through some sort of third-party—Avast in this case—to do the heavy lifting. While users had the Avast extension installed, the company could package all of the clicks and on-screen browsing behavior of a given user, bundle it up, and share it with a given brand—say, Nike—that might want to know the types of people clicking on its site, and when.

And while this particular data might not be “personally identifiable,” per the CEO, we’ve already explained again and again why that’s a bullshit excuse—perhaps, even more so when your entire browsing history is on the line.

The closure is a move that craters the jobs of the “hundreds” of Jumpshot employees that’ll be forced to pack up, but it’s ultimately the right one. While the company prided itself on “always acting within legal bounds” and making privacy settings freely available to anyone using the extension, the truth is—as anyone in the data game will tell you—that doesn’t mean jack shit when those privacy settings are, by and large, unreadable. Besides, this is a statement that puts all of the onus on users that are, ostensibly, downloading a security app to feel more secure. Why would they think about looking under the hood?

In a letter to investors about the “press speculation” regarding Jumpshot, the Avast secretary Alan Rassaby noted that this arm alone was expected to rake in $36 million from the major brands—which, per the initial report, included Pepsi, Home Depot, and more—that were plugged into the partner. According to a follow-up note, this was a mere 7% cut of the more than $400 million Avast earned in all of 2019.

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I cover the business of data for Gizmodo. Send your worst tips to swodinsky@gizmodo.com.

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DISCUSSION

eyebreakthings
EyeBreakThings

downloading a security app to feel more secure. Why would they think about looking under the hood

That’s a yikes from me. I’d think any security suite would be one of the top priories to vet before giving it access to your system. Granted this sounds like a browser extension and not a full-fledged AV product, which will dig it’s claws into your system.