• United States



Avast pulls CCleaner version that lacked privacy options after backlash

Aug 05, 20184 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsPrivacySecurity

Avast-owned Piriform reverted to a previous version of CCleaner in response to user outrage over its new data collection policy that had no privacy options.

Credit: Piriform

Avast-owned Piriform responded to the backlash it received from outraged users about its new data collection policy for the hugely popular system cleaning tool CCleaner. The company promised to make changes after releasing CCleaner v5.45, but then went so far as to remove that version and revert back to the previous v5.44.

It didn’t take long after releasing CCleaner v5.45 before users noticed that the program’s Active Monitoring feature could not be disabled and that privacy options to control what data was collected had been disabled in the free version.

Ghacks first noticed the changes and warned people not to install it. “While you may go to Options > Monitoring to disable ‘Enable system monitoring’ and ‘Enable Active Monitoring’ there, you will notice that the monitoring turns itself on again on the next start.”

As for the privacy options, users of CCleaner v5.45 Free had none; instead, there was a link to the company’s privacy policy for the description of what data was collected and how it was used.

Furthermore, users couldn’t terminate CCleaner v5.45, as clicking on the X to close the program would only minimize it; it required using Task Manager to force the program to close.

Avast responds to users’ concerns

“Paul Piriform,” writing on behalf of Avast, suggested a lot of the user outrage came from the “scary name” of Active Monitoring, adding that it had been part of CCleaner for years. However, he did admit that in v5.45 the company extended “existing analytics functionality in the software in order to gain greater insight into how our users interact with the software.”

He added that the collected data was “completely anonymous,” and collecting it could help Piriform “rapidly detect bugs, identify pain points in the UI design and also understand which areas of functionality we should be focusing our time on.”

Adding the new analytics with Active Monitoring had been quick to implement, Piriform said, but failed to give users much control. There were plans to “separate out Active Monitoring (junk cleaning alerts and browser cleaning alerts) and heartbeat (anonymous usage analytics) features in the UI” in a future version and to “give you the ability to control these individually. You will have the options of enabling all, some or none of these functions, and this functionality will be uniquely controlled from the UI.” Advanced Monitoring features would be renamed to “make their functions clearer.”

Users were not placated by the promise of CCleaner changes at some point in the future, so Piriform removed v5.45 from the downloads. Piriform responded:

Thank you all for your continued feedback (positive and negative, it all helps). I wanted to give a quick progress update on what we’re doing. We’re currently working on separating out cleaning functionality from analytics reporting and offering more user control options which will be remembered when CCleaner is closed. We’re also creating a factsheet to share which will outline the data we collect, for which purposes and how it is processed.

Today we have removed v5.45 and reverted to v5.44 as the main download for CCleaner while we work on a new version with several key improvements.

Piriform expects the promised changes to take “weeks, not days,” to implement.

How far can a company go before it is too far to regain user trust? Many people weren’t thrilled with Avast bringing pop-up ads to CCleaner, nor were they happy when CCleaner was backdoored and infected with malware. Yet with this latest privacy fiasco, some users claim to have had enough and that they will kick CCleaner to the curb.

ms smith

Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.