Free Antivirus Programs Sell Users’ Information

There were more than $4m in reported losses from identity theft last year, almost four times higher than the previous year. Scammers find ways to steal information through different means, with some resorting to buying information from third-party sources. Recently, select companies offering free antivirus products were caught selling their users’ data.

Make sure you know what you’re signing up for when it comes to free products

These antivirus companies reportedly collected data from people who opted into data collection upon signing up for their free antivirus program. Unique user IDs and browser page history was some of the information allegedly collected. Although personal or financial information were not included in the harvested data, it is still a concern that such data was taken from its users. After the data is acquired, it is sent to a third party to be sold on to large-scale companies. These large-scale companies purchase data to track user behaviour online and target specific users with ads.

One of the antivirus companies in question, reassured users that a third-party subsidiary was not acquiring their data. In their statement, they claimed that their users have control over privacy and data settings, and that data was only used for product improvements and analytics, which is explained in their privacy and consent policy. Despite the statement, some customers who signed up for the free antivirus program were not made aware of the practice, with some claiming that they did not see a new opt-in pop-up.

As identity theft reports continue to rise, you should always be aware of where you input your private information. Make sure to keep these best practices in mind:

  • Read the prompts, terms and conditions, and privacy policy before signing up for any program. It may sound like a lot of work, but you should make it a habit to read everything before you click that sign-up button. Some companies offering free products will take this opportunity to use your data in various ways, especially if the services they’re offering are free.

  • Don’t provide your private information carelessly. Always remember that the site you’re signing up for has the ability to obtain any information that you are willing to provide. Ensure that the site you’re signing up for is secured and legitimate if you need to provide any sensitive information, especially involving personal or financial details.

  • Report any suspicious activities. If you suspect that your identity has been stolen online, or notice any suspicious activities, make sure to report it to Scamwatch.
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