The true value of “Free” software – By Bob Milliken

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AVG proudly announces it will sell your browsing history to online advertisers

Bob Milliken
Bob Milliken

Are getting the best deal when you download and use FREE software?  We sometimes forget that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
AVG, the well-known Czech antivirus company, has announced a new policy to sell your search and browsing history to advertisers and use the revenue earned to recover the cost of their free flagship antivirus software. And worse (for us), this news comes as Facebook begins rolling out targeted advertising based on data it gleans from user activity on other websites.
This new policy is slated to come into effect on October 15th, and will affect anyone using the FREE version on AVG’s antivirus software.
AVG is the third most popular antivirus product in the world according to market analysis from software firm Opswat. The company has a 8.6 percent share of the global market, behind Microsoft on 19.4 percent and Avast on 21.4 percent. But, be aware, that when it comes to freeware, you should never confuse popularity with effectiveness.
On their website, AVG claims that their free product is protecting over 200,000,000 active users. Is it little wonder that they want to leverage this install base with advertisers?
AVG’s potential ability to collect and sell browser and search history data placed the company “squarely into the category of spyware”, according to Alexander Hanff security expert and chief executive of Think Privacy.
“Antivirus software runs on our devices with elevated privileges so it can detect and block malware, adware, spyware and other threats,” he told WIRED. “It is utterly unethical to [the] highest degree and a complete and total abuse of the trust we give our security software.” Hanff urged people using AVG’s free antivirus to “immediately uninstall the product and find an alternative”.
In response to this statement and to other industry comments saying that AVG had stayed “just on the non-creepy side of creepy”, AVG has published a blog post (http://now.avg.com/understanding-the-new-privacy-policy/) explaining their decision to go this route. Use this information to decide for yourself you want to use its services or not.
Let us help! The bottom line is that if you are ok using free software that will share your search and browser information with advertisers, then do nothing.  However, if you are concerned about the impact that this new AVG policy will have on your business, your identity and your security.

Bob Milliken is the president of Cascadia Systems Group. Connect with Bob at TheITguy@CascadiaSystemsGroup.com, or give us a call – 604.270.1730. Your comments are appreciated – ComputerCents@CascadiaSystemsGroup.com