Tag Archives: Privacy policy

AV Gee Whiz…

If you own a Windows computer, chances are you’ve installed some sort of anti-virus program.  At least I hope you have.  One of the more popular programs of this sort is AVG Anti-virus.  I have it on my old Windows machine and I’ve installed it on my parents’ laptop.  AVG recently updated their privacy policy and it’s caused a bit of a fracas.  It also raises some important issues for the rest of us. 

Let me say at the outset that the manner in which AVG presents their new policy should be a model for the rest of us.  You can (and should) read it here.  It is clear, written in plain language that doesn’t require the reader to be either a lawyer or a technical person. Not only do they explain what data they are collecting but also why they are collecting it.  I bet you can’t find another privacy policy that does so as well as this one does.

So what has happened as a result of AVG trying to be good corporate citizens?  They are getting reamed.  There have been many negative articles and thousands of negative posts written (this thread on reddit is particularly nasty).  You see, AVG made one large change in the policy, which is that it now involves keeping the browsing history of its users and selling the data to third parties.  They actually were collecting most of this data before except there was no mention of selling it to anyone for commercial purposes.

The PC World piece on the controversy summed it up nicely:

AVG’s new policy illustrates exactly why companies tend to drown their data collection practices in legalese. There’s no penalty for doing so, and being transparent only invites more outrage. In that sense, AVG at least deserves credit for helping users make informed decisions. Still, the idea of an anti-virus program tracking and monetizing your browsing history is unnerving, and if anything AVG ought to clarify that point further as it finalizes its new privacy policy.

So I’m at a loss here.  Is it a better idea to confuse your customers?  Is it good practice to be a little less transparent?  I don’t think either of those are true.  Are we all still so naive that we believe all the tracking information companies gather about our every move (and this is true about your mobile device usage too!) is just for their own information so that they can make our user experiences better?  Sure, AVG makes it possible to opt out of some of this, but do we really think most people will read the new policy and do so?

I guess the real question becomes is honesty still the best policy?  What’s your take?

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Filed under Huh?, Reality checks

Keeping It To Yourself

We have discussed privacy here on the screed several times. During many of those rants I talked about how companies need to think about their privacy policies (and being transparent about it is a great start) and how those policies will play with the folks whose data the companies are using. My theory is that young people have never really had any privacy (mostly due to hovering parents) and they’re less concerned about the issue than are people of my generation. However, there are netizens of every age who do care, and I suspect that as the “creepy” factor of ads following you around grows due to retargeting, etc., more people will begin to look into what data they’re sharing with the web overlords and how that data is used.

If you care or if you wonder if you should, the folks at Privacy Choice will be of interest to you.  Their research reveals that 20% of sites and apps reserve the right to share personal data freely for commercial purposes. Also, 60% of website privacy policies do not provide any written assurance that users can delete their personal data at the end of the relationship:

The most critical component of a privacy policy governs how a website or app handles personal data, which increasingly includes not only email addresses but also profile and other more intimate personal information gathered through social network integration…Nearly two-thirds of all policies examined (63%) provide assurance that personal data generally will not be shared with other companies, while another 10% promise not to share personal data for “marketing purposes.” However, one in five sites provide no assurance against sharing personal data with other companies.

If you are interested, I urge you to install their Privacyfix tool and the browser extension.  You can check a site’s tracking using this tool.  The results can be eye-opening.  It’s becoming obvious that companies are counting on us to take control if that’s what we want.  What do you think?

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Filed under digital media, Helpful Hints