Difficult season: Antivirus-flinger Avast decides to 'wind down' Jumpshot

'Hundreds' of staffers in marketing analytics subsidiary to be hit

Avast will pull the plug on Jumpshot, its controversial data analytics business, after it was revealed the company was harvesting its users' data.

The Brit antivirus firm ran into trouble last month when a security researcher, Wladimir Palant, found that the company's Firefox browser extensions were collecting customers' browsing data, including URLs of sites they had visited, and per-device unique IDs, and selling it, apparently deanonymised, to customers such as Revlon, Tripadvisor and Intel.

The extensions were booted out of the Mozilla and Google web stores following the story. In response, Avast said it had stopped gathering people's data "for any other purpose than the core security engine, including sharing with Jumpshot".

But a PCMag investigation publicised earlier this week found that Avast can still collect users' browser history through its main antivirus application, or through AVG antivirus, which it also owns. The data is harvested through the software's Web Shield component, which scans URLs on your browser to detect malicious or dodgy websites, it claimed. Jumpshot denied the allegations.

Avast announced the closure, which it termed a "winding down" in a press release this morning, saying that it would "terminate its provision of data" to Jumpshot immediately and eventually close the business. It added: "Jumpshot may not use any existing data provided by Avast and no further data will be provided by Avast."

In a linked blog post, the company's newish chief exec, Ondrej Vlcek, said Jumpshot had acted "fully within legal bounds". The decision to close the company was made because it did not fit with its privacy policies for 2020 and beyond, he said.

"Protecting people is Avast's top priority and must be embedded in everything we do in our business and in our products. Anything to the contrary is unacceptable," the blog post read.

He added that the closure would "impact" hundreds of employees across the company's five global offices. The company intends to continue paying its suppliers "in full as necessary" during the closedown.

The closure will not affect Avast's financial results, the company said in a trading update. It forecasts mid-single-digit growth in underlying revenue for the current year, excluding Jumpshot. ®

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