Avast and AVG extensions pulled from Chrome

Avast and AVG once again criticised for excessive data collection in security and shopping browser extensions

Google Chrome is the latest browser to drop AVG and Avast extensions after reports of excessive data snooping.

Back in October, a blog post from Wladimir Palant, founder and CTO at AdBlock Plus, highlighted that browser extensions created by the two security firms were hoovering up more data than necessary to function, especially versus rivals such as Google Safe Browsing. That data, according to the post, included user ID, where you're located, and how you got to a specific page.

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After that report, Mozilla and Opera both pulled the AVG and Avast extensions, though the former reinstated one set of add-ons after changes to data collection were made. Google has now reportedly also followed that lead, removing the questionable extensions.

"I didn't expect to publish this update any more, but Avast extensions are now gone from Chrome Web Store as well," Palant tweeted. "Only AVG Online Security remains for some reason. Way to go Google!" The latter has 3,582 users, according to the Google Web Store.

Avast, which bought AVG in 2016, had not replied to a request for comment at the time of publishing.

Palant highlighted in his blog post four extensions: Avast Online Security, AVG Online Security, as well as the SafePrice shopping addon from both companies. Mozilla has since reinstated the Online Security addons, but not SafePrice.

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"The data collected here goes far beyond merely exposing the sites that you visit and your search history," he explained. "Tracking tab and window identifiers as well as your actions allows Avast to create a nearly precise reconstruction of your browsing behaviour: 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."

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This isn't the first time that Avast has been in trouble for data collection. Back in 2015, it was accused of using its extension to spy on users in a similar way, an accusation Avast denied in a forum statement saying all data collected was "essential" to provide the service. In 2018, the company pulled an update to CCleaner after backlash sparked by privacy settings, while in 2015 AVG was criticised for auto-installing a plugin into the Chrome browser.

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