Avast Has Been Fined $16.5 Million For ‘Privacy’ Software That Actually Sold Users’ Browsing Data

Avast, a prominent cybersecurity software company, is embroiled in controversy as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) levies a hefty fine of $16.5 million against it.

FoEstablishedn the late 1980s in Czechoslovakia, Avast has evolved into a leading prtivirus software and cybersecurity solutions. Despite its growth and mergers within the cybersecurity industry, the company now faces scrutiny over its data handling practices. According to the FTC, Avast’s UK-based entity and its Czech subsidiary allegedly engaged in deceptive practices by claiming to protect users from online tracking while covertly collecting and selling their browsing data since at least 2014. The agency contends that Avast misled users by promising to share data only in anonymous and aggregate forms, a claim contradicted by its actual data-selling practices.

FTC Chair Lina Khan emphasized the sensitivity of browsing data, highlighting its potential to reveal deeply personal information. The FTC’s complaint not only accuses Avast of deceptive practices but also identifies its conduct as unfair, warranting heightened protection for browsing data.

Avast’s data sale reportedly extended to over 100 clients, including consulting firms, advertising companies, and data brokers. In addition to the substantial fine, the FTC imposed a ban prohibiting Avast from selling or licensing data for advertising purposes.

Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, condemned Avast’s actions as a “bait-and-switch surveillance tactic” that compromised consumer privacy and violated the law.

In response to the allegations, Avast acknowledged reaching a settlement with the FTC related to its subsidiary, Jumpshot, which it voluntarily closed in January 2020. Despite disagreeing with the FTC’s allegations, Avast expressed its commitment to resolving the matter and continuing to serve its global customer base.

The FTC’s fine against Avast underscores the growing importance of data privacy in the digital age. It serves as a reminder for companies to uphold their promises of safeguarding consumer data.

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