It is common these days for software to be available for free. While this has made it easier to access software, vendors still need a business model that generates revenue for them to support the development and maintenance of these products. Anti virus products have followed this trend and there are now a number of free and paid products available. Most of these free products work on the basis that you get basic real time scanning protection with additional functionality available as paid options. Yet these products have deep access to the operating systems and as a result are capable of gathering a lot of information about your computer. The information they gather can be used for marketing purposes and this is of commercial value. Some vendors bundle 3rd party products into their installations to make the products commercially viable. So the question becomes how is your personal information used by these vendors?
The AV products that were rated best with respect to personal information disclosure were:
Products rated the worst (or vendors did not disclose what information they kept):
- Trend Micro
There were many products that had a mixed rating for personal information disclosure. The products rated best for privacy considerations overall were:
It should be noted that this report was release in 2014 so may be out of date with respect to the latest product versions. In general, it is worth reading through the EULA and privacy policies to understand how your information can and will be used by the vendors. Also be wary of any 3rd party software that is bundled with the free AV product as this may disclose your personal information too. It is usually best to untick the box for add-ons and other products when installing these products. While privacy seems to be a commodity we are happy to trade for free stuff, it is worth considering the implications of what is done with your information. If you are interested in how you can better safe guard your online information take a look at the EFF's surveillance self-defense site at https://ssd.eff.org/en.