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Avast purchased used cell phones for creepy media stunt


Avast is an internet security/antivirus/antimalware company that works on many platforms including Android, Mac and Windows. They decided to purchase a bunch of phones on Ebay and recover everything they could in order to promote their application’s data wiping capabilities by showing what could be recovered.

Factory resetting a phone doesn’t really do anything to get rid of data, and even deleting files leaves them recoverable with simple recovery tools, so the point of their purchase should have just been to show just what could be recovered.

Avast searches through my phoneWhat happened next involves Avast’s team taking 20 phones they purchased and recovering 40,000 personal photos (including nudes), private text messages, accessing Facebook accounts, recovering their contacts, tracking where they had been based on GPS data, and recovering and reading through emails that were thought to have been deleted by the phones previous owners.

If this sounds creepy to you, it is. It proves that you should use an application to wipe the phone completely before resell, but also proves that Avast employs some seriously creepy people who have executed a media event that I’m pretty sure violates several terms of service, if not US privacy laws. The phone pictured appeared to be delivered to Portugal from Hong Kong so that might not be an issue.

Among the information they released from their 20-phone purchase included “this guy was really into anime porn,” and that one of the people had completed a sexual harassment course and had a penchant for kink.

They could have said that this person had a baby and they knew where they lived, which would scare the bejeezus out of me, but they opted for shame this round and it’s probably going to work out well for them.

Avast is currently protecting more than 200 million PCs, Macs, and Androids according to their PR, and theoretically, based on their release, if you use them to wipe your phone the person who purchases it won’t be able to find out what a terrible sicko you really are, or call up/email everyone you know and tell them.

I don’t like their presentation on this stunt (and question its legality in many ways.) I also don’t think Avast is at all useful on Android.

The times I’ve used Avast in the past seemed to be nothing but false alarms and faux security, they also don’t do much that Google doesn’t already provide either via Bouncer, Google+, or Android Device Manager.

What do you think of this PR stunt or of Avast? Maybe this is just rubbing me the wrong way but I feel like they’re going for sleezy scare rather than “we actually can do neat things for your phone!” Also why does my rooted phone with several exploits and a hack kit installed for use with testing this not trigger some alarms?

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Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts

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