Although AVG Technologies claims it will keep its promise not to share personal data with other third parties, now it firmly specifies that it can reveal non-identifiable information.
According to executives of the antivirus company, in order to maintain its security apps free for all users, non-personal data is collected, and sold to other companies. The revenue allows the firm to remain fully operational and to constantly improve its product offering.
The information disclosed to other business partners includes: browsing and search history, details regarding other applications stored on the user’s device, advertising ID and the identity of the Internet service provider or mobile network.
Based on these findings, anonymous data profiles are created, which are used for marketing and statistical purposes, or for upgrading the product mix.
In addition, even information that may identify people can be used, provided that it is combined with data related to other subscribers. For instance, user location, which would normally be qualified as personal data, can be aggreggated in order to determine the geographic distribution of global customers.
This has stirred criticism from privacy advocates, such as Alexander Hanff, security expert and chief executive of Think Privacy. Hanff believes that the new policy turns AVG into “spyware”and strongly recommends the software’s users to unistall the program and find a more suitable alternative.
“It is utterly unethical to the highest degree and a complete and total abuse of the trust we give our security software”, declared Hanff.
On the other hand, a company spokesperson has rejected these accusations, claiming AVG simply rephrased previous privacy terms, in an effort to improve transparency. In the past, users were notified that the software can gather information regarding “the words you search”, but that expression was rather ambiguous.
Moreover, the security provider does state that users can defend themselves from having personal and non-personal data collected, without experiencing a loss in functionality. In order to guard their privacy, they can refuse to transfer such details, by following a list of instructions.
In addition, representatives claim that browsing or search history will be treated as personal data and anonymized, if it includes terms that may identify the user.
Also, people have the right to request that their personal data is updated, corrected, or deleted. Nevertheless, the security firm admits that it might keep such information for up to a year after a subscriber has stopped using the software.
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