AVG does assure users that: “We do not, and will not, sell personally identifiable data to anyone, including advertisers.” However, a lot of the criticism, and skepticism, revolves around precisely this question of personally identifiable data. Some argue that data cannot be comprehensively anonymized; others point out that advertisers will be pushing for data that allows them to identify users. This isn’t the first time that AVG has been pulled up on the issue. Way back in 2011, one of its early apps for Windows phones was criticized for privacy invasion. And of course, this may be the price you pay for free products, but AVG’s position is attracting far more attention, and criticism, than usual.
Then there’s the issue of the upcoming Senate vote on the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, which in principle makes it easier for tech companies to share information with the U.S. government to improve national cybersecurity. It also grants these companies immunity from resulting prosecution for violation of privacy. Major tech companies aren’t exactly lining up behind the new bill, though. Apple, Dropbox, Reddit, Twitter, Wikipedia, and others have come out against it. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is leading a campaign against it. With such broad condemnation, you’d hope that it will die a death before becoming law. But the underlying concerns remain, and will not go away.