Microsoft and AVG have come under fire from privacy advocates and cybersecurity experts for their role in developing software that enables companies to collect and share customer data.
The two companies, which have been embroiled in a lawsuit over how they store customer data, are also the targets of a recent audit from the Computer and Communications Industry Association.
Microsoft is in the process of releasing a new version of its popular Windows Defender, a software that helps protect against malicious software attacks.
The company’s Windows Defender is being redesigned with an emphasis on the cloud and cloud-based services, and the company is moving to a new cloud-hosting provider, Microsoft Cloud.
However, the new software is still vulnerable to data-collection methods that have been used by the likes of AVG.
The audit, conducted by the Center for Democracy and Technology, also noted that the companies did not disclose how the software they built into Windows Defender was used in practice by their customers, or how it could be used in a breach.
This raises questions about how the companies use customer data for commercial purposes, such as selling advertising, and what customers are informed about how they are being used.
“While these questions are relevant to a wide range of privacy concerns, there are some important questions that remain unanswered,” wrote CERT researchers John Emslie and Matthew Green.
Who is using the data, and why?”
The audit also pointed out that some of the company’s privacy policies did not include clear warnings about how its software might be used.
Microsoft declined to comment.
The companies have previously faced scrutiny over privacy issues, including the use of malware in the software and how it used customer data in the course of its corporate reorganization.
Microsoft announced in December that it was pulling the plug on Windows Defender and its online services, including Azure, and is moving its cloud-to-cloud service to the cloud.
However the companies are still able to offer services like Office 365 and Exchange Online, which are free to use.
The report also noted the potential for companies to sell customer data to third parties for advertising and other purposes.
Microsoft also is investigating how much data the two companies collected on customers in the run-up to the Windows 10 launch.