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Facebook snuggles with McAfee in security spree

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Facebook has partnered with McAfee to offer users of the social networking site a free six-month subscription to its security software.

The year-long exclusive deal, announced Wednesday, also involves a special (unspecified) discount for McAfee's Internet Security Suite software once the six months trial is over.

Facebook and McAfee emphasise that the deal is part of a wider consumer education effort, and improvements to the social network's account recovery and internal security procedures, focusing on the detection and blocking of suspicious behaviour.

The deal's greatest significance, however, is in creating a new channel for the distribution of consumer security software. Security firms such as McAfee and Symantec have traditionally bundled 30-day (or sometimes three month) trial versions of their software with new PCs, with computer manufacturers getting a slice of the revenue from the resulting deals. The Facebook agreement is different because it involves a much longer trial period and no revenue share.

The huge user base of Facebook means that the social network could become a major conduit for free consumer security software. Together with the recent launch of Microsoft's freebie Security Essential software this puts a further squeeze on the likes of AVG and Avast. A sizeable presence in the consumer market results in intelligence that can improve the effectiveness of enterprise packages, as well as raising the profile of brands.

The deal is therefore something of a coup for McAfee against arch-rival Symantec. Whether the agreement offers Facebook security bragging rights is more debatable, especially in the wake of its recent privacy changes that made photos and personal information available to everyone, to say nothing of last year's Beacon advertising debacle or ongoing problems with rogue apps.

McAfee Internet Security Suite software is on offer to Facebook users in the US, UK, Australia, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Canada, Mexico and Brazil. Roll-out to other countries is expected in Q1.

The McAfee download portal on Facebook could not be accessed at the time of writing, presumably as a result of high demand. McAfee's statement on the deal can be found here and Facebook's take here. ®

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