Many consumers use the AVG anti-virus software because it is free. Just download it and start protecting your devices. This works out well for many consumers but what they don’t realize is that the AVG is a business and needs to make money. Now there are paid versions of their anti-virus software that come with additional features but the majority of consumers probably opt for the no-cost option. This means that a company like AVG needs to find a way to make money from those consumers that are not paying for the product. On the web, this is generally done through advertising on the site and the same thing is done with some software as well. AVG uses a different approach that has become much more public because of their recent . So how exactly can companies like AVG make money off consumers that don’t pay?
Information is one of the biggest ways that companies can make money. By selling data to information brokers, the companies can raise revenue without having to do much work beyond collecting the data. They can also benefit from having and analyzing this data themselves as well. One of the biggest reasons Google can make so much money from free web services is they mine all that information for a huge amount of data and is then aggregated and then used for producing ads where they get much of their revenue.
Now a large company like Google can obviously profit from their own data quite well because they have some way to utilize it in their business, but a smaller company like AVG may not be able to generate as much revenue via that data on their own. In situations like this, the company can aggregate the data and then sell it to a data or information broker. This is a company that collects and analyzes data that is then sold off to others for marketing purposes mostly. You would be surprised how much data such companies have on pretty much any individual.
Now all this data collection has many privacy advocates quite worried. The more information that consumers provide to companies, the more likely that information can be used to harm consumers. The data can be specifically registered to a specific user. For instance, most grocery store loyalty cards track individuals purchases. In aggregate, this can tell the company what it should stock in stores. But at the personal level, it is also used in order to generate special coupons and offers that are targeted to the individual. It is critical that consumers read through any privacy policies to get an idea of what information might be collected.
Now AVG is actually being very upfront about what they collect. They are telling their users that they are collecting and . Some examples of information collected include:
- Advertising ID associated with your device
- Browsing and search history, including meta data
- Internet service provider or mobile network you use to connect to our products
- Information regarding other applications you may have on your device and how they are used
The big issue is that with sufficient non-identifiable data, individuals can still be picked out by their unique actions. This is certainly true based on a persons browsing history in terms of what sites they view and how frequently.
What Can Consumers Do?
There are several ways that consumers can react to situations like AVG and their collecting of information. The first and most obvious is to stop doing business with the company. If you do no use their services, they do not have the right to collect information on you. This is no different than boycotting a business because you disagree with their stance.
But what if you want to use their services and limit what they collect? Well, that depends on the policies of the company. Some may not give you any choice. By agreeing to use their services, they essentially lock you into a policy that allows them to use it. The key is what rights the users have to find out what data is collected and how it is used. For instance, AVG states to look at the data that is collected on them and even requests updates and deletion of data as long as the requests are reasonable. Consumers basically have to trust that the company will abide by those policies otherwise they have to fall back to electing not to use the companies software or services.