Mozilla Removes Avast, AVG Extensions From Firefox Store

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Add-ons from security vendor Avast pulled from Firefox online store, after they are accused of spying on user’s web surfing habits

Mozilla has reportedly taken the decision to remove Avast and AVG extensions out of it Firefox store, over data privacy concerns.

The issue centres around four extensions made by Avast and its rival AVG, that Avast purchased back in 2016 for $1.3bn.

Avast and AVG extensions have been removed but are not blocked, which means that the extensions remain installed in Firefox browsers for the time being. Users just cannot download the extensions from the Firefox add-on store any more.

Data gathering

It seems that Mozilla took the decision after it noted the concerns of Wladimir Palant, who is responsible for the AdBlock Plus extension for Firefox.

Palant alleged that while the extensions prevent malware infections and phishing safeguards, the Avast and AVG extensions are also spying on the web surfing habits of users.

He also alleges the extensions when installed in a browser, track the URL and title of every webpage the user visits.

The add-ons also reportedly document how the user got to that page, along with a per-user identifier and details about the operating system and browser version used, plus other metadata.

All that data is then transmitted back to Avast’s back-end servers

“Avast Online Security collecting personal data of their users is not an oversight and not necessary for the extension functionality either,” Palant wrote. “The extension attempts to collect as much context data as possible, and it does so on purpose.”

Avast acknowledged the issue and said it was working with Mozilla to resolve the problem.

“We have offered our Avast Online Security and SafePrice browser extensions for many years through the Mozilla store,” Avast said in a statement, as reported by ghacks.net.

“Mozilla has recently updated its store policy and we are liaising with them in order to make the necessary adjustments to our extensions to align with new requirements,” Avast reportedly said.

“The Avast Online Security extension is a security tool that protects users online, including from infected websites and phishing attacks,” it added. “It is necessary for this service to collect the URL history to deliver its expected functionality. Avast does this without collecting or storing a user’s identification.”

“We have already implemented some of Mozilla’s new requirements and will release further updated versions that are fully compliant and transparent per the new requirements,” it added. “These will be available as usual in the Mozilla store in the near future.

Last month Mozilla announced it will change the way its Firefox browser handles the amount of annoying permission prompts (or pop-ups) when surfing the web.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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