Sharing some information is the price for having ‘free’ anti-virus software

Protecting your business and personal information is a fundamental part of information security. If you pay to use software or a cloud-based service, there is no reason for any information to be passed on. The only exception is to a valid law enforcement agency in your country if they have justifiable grounds to believe laws have been broken.

The story about AVG selling browsing and search history to advertisers to support their free product should not come as a complete surprise as manufacturers are always looking to make money from ‘free’ products to support them. AVG say data is anonymous and non-personal, and there will be an option to opt-out. If the default were to opt-out, there wouldn’t have been a story, but it doesn’t look like this will be the default.

So what other options are there for free PC anti-virus products? In January 2015, the three leading suppliers were Avast (21.4%), Microsoft (19.4%) and AVG (8.6%). Avast collect information to pass to advertisers but  does not specify if this includes browser and search history data. Microsoft also collect information in their Security Essentials product and may pass it on in an anonymous format.

If you are happy to accept the risk of the process to make data anonymous working correctly, no action is needed. If you don’t want any information passed on the options are to pay for anti-virus software or make sure you read the privacy policy of the manufacturer and enable the opt-out option (if it exists). The choice is yours.