Research from an ad-blocking founder has revealed that popular browser extensions are unlawfully collecting user data. These are the extensions from famous Antivirus Companies, Avast, and AVG. As allegations turned out to be true, they were now removed from Chrome’s Web Store.
Chrome web store is more like Playstore or Appstore but in the web version of the browser. No one would think that even the tiny extensions could spy on users. Here’s a story of four browser extensions collecting more than data than needed and being delisted from stores.
Adblock Plus creator Wladimir Palant Research
This news was initially surfaced by Adblock Plus extension founder, Wladimir Palant. He, in his blog, detailing how the extensions from Avast and AVG are spying on their customers and stealing data that’s more than sufficient for their businesses.
He accused Avast SafePrice, Avast Online Security, AVG SafePrice and AVG Online Security are collecting data that is inappropriate even for security providers. While Avast’s SafePrice and Online Security and AVG’s SafePrice were removed from the Chrome web store recently, the AVG’s Online Security extension is still available.
He complained as, “The data collected here goes far beyond merely exposing the sites that you visit and your search history. Tracking tab and window identifiers as well as your actions allows Avast to create a nearly precise reconstruction of your browsing behavior: how many tabs do you have open, what websites do you visit and when, how much time do you spend reading/watching the contents, what do you click there and when do you switch to another tab.”
Palant connected the dots when he realized that Avast acquired an analytics firm called Jumpshot in 2013. This company gives its customer’s data insights for digital marketing strategies. I hope you got the point here! If not, here you go; Suspicion is that Avast is gathering data via its extensions and forming as a base for its subsidiary’s business.
AVG and Avast are the same. They were being competitors in the past until Avast acquired AVG in 2012 but let perform its operations independently. Both use the same background engine/software for flagging malware.
Other Browsers Too
Palante reported this not just to Google, but also to Mozilla and Opera too. Even before Google acted on this, Opera has unpublished these extensions from their store and Mozilla disabled these extensions in their Add-ons store. And in last week, Avast resolved this issue with Mozilla and re-added both online security extensions by removing the unneeded collecting tools.