AVG defends pulled Windows Phone 7 app

Not long ago AVG released a free anti-virus scanner for Windows Phone 7 users. However, the app quickly came under criticism from users who said that the software not only tracked the mobile phone's location but also sent info such as the smartphone model and brand and the user's email address to AVG's servers. Microsoft's Brandon Watson confirmed on Friday via his Twitter page that the company had pulled the AVG app from the Zune Marketplace, saying, "Doing some investigations, but want functionality certainty."

AVG is trying to defend the app's features in the wake of the controversy. In a post on AVG's web site, it said that while it does collect location data via the app, it adds that the feature "allows a user to locate a phone in case it is lost or stolen. This feature is immediately available to all users so a phone can be tracked if it is lost straight away; otherwise, a user will find out the feature is disabled after the phone is lost or stolen, meaning the user could not locate the phone on a map. A user may opt-out of this feature at any time." It adds, "Locating a lost phone on a map requires GPS data, which is why the app requests geo location data with this feature enabled."

The web site showed two examples of what info AVG receives when the location based service is enabled or disabled. The example show no location info is displayed when the feature is disabled. It added that the company doesn't sell the info it does receive to anyone or share info with anyone without permission.

Some people have questioned why there is even a need for an anti-virus app for Windows Phone 7 since no viruses have been detected yet for the operating system. News.com reports that AVG's Chief Technology Officer Yuval Ben-Itzhak said the app is used for more than just anti-virus detection, saying, "It is also about protecting against outside threats that are using the Internet as an attack vector, threats such as phishing attacks for instance."

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20 Comments

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Anti virus companies are irrelevant in this era since Microsoft releases its Security Essentials software.

The only quasi-semi-legitimate way any antivirus application operate depends on the OS (WP7) to use client-side, enterprise-style messaging between API operations. (So all apps' data retrievals are all stored in a single set of message queues, then any background scheduled tasks may peek into the queues to analyze their contents and pull the item from the queue and into its own isolated storage locale to quarantine the offending items.)

Realistically, though, RW access to any kernel- or core-level queueing by any other app would be a humongous security risk and is the sort of architectural insurance MSFT designed ahead of time. So, the only successful over-the-air virus would have to breach an app's sandbox hull then actively change the kernel's behaviors. Ha, fat chance.

As a software developer I am constantly surprised that companies do an opt-out instead of an opt-in. Software should not force the user into a decision.

I don't see AVG involved in any wrongdoing here. Yes, it sounds like they are duplicating a feature the phone already has, but how many people don't even know about it? It's unnecessary, but it doesn't sound shifty to me.

Skwerl said,
I don't see AVG involved in any wrongdoing here. Yes, it sounds like they are duplicating a feature the phone already has, but how many people don't even know about it? It's unnecessary, but it doesn't sound shifty to me.

That may be true but how is a person to know where to go when their phone is lost? Use their app? Well their phone is lost, app doesn't do anything. I'm guessing, using their website? I don't see where to go to find my phone (as only Android is the only OS that it shows to have a "help" type of page for). So what's the point in the feature if a person can't easily access information on their lost phone? That's why it looks shifty.

Zedox said,

That may be true but how is a person to know where to go when their phone is lost? Use their app? Well their phone is lost, app doesn't do anything. I'm guessing, using their website? I don't see where to go to find my phone (as only Android is the only OS that it shows to have a "help" type of page for). So what's the point in the feature if a person can't easily access information on their lost phone? That's why it looks shifty.


+1. Because it wasn't being collected for this purpose is my bet.

It's called anti-VIRUS. They already collect network activity and your smartphone's IP address with their insanely useless application (WP7 doesn't allow real-time cross-application packet inspection, communication, and interruption), so there is absolutely ZERO legitimate reason to collect your GPS location besides shifty marketing purposes. Even with ads, the location-sharing is between the smartphone and the ad servers -- not the AV app that may be concurrently running.

I say DQ the app and financially penalize AVG for trying to set the stage for an extremely shifty legal challenge against MSFT for their supposed "closed, proprietary" mobile OS which would, of course, somehow be anticompetitive and monopolistic. (Urgh, AVG, you are so damn predictable it's not even funny how you're trying to set the stage for a lawsuit against MSFT.)

Yeah... where do you go to use this "lost phone" feature? And how does this app prevent phishing attacks? Looks like it does absolutely nothing.

wixostrix said,
I didn't see any indication of a feature that would let you locate your lost phone.

Not only that, but such a feature is already implemented on the phone itself

it's a load of bull, and why is neowin reposting news like crazy these day....???

anyway...."it said that while it does collect location data via the app, it adds that the feature "allows a user to locate a phone in case it is lost or stolen"

the facking feature is build into the fone, just facking die avg

flexkeyboard said,
it's a load of bull, and why is neowin reposting news like crazy these day....???

anyway...."it said that while it does collect location data via the app, it adds that the feature "allows a user to locate a phone in case it is lost or stolen"

the facking feature is build into the fone, just facking die avg


+1. Why develop a feature that is built into the OS? It's very fishy...