AVG defends mobile app after removal by Microsoft

Standing by its antivirus app for Windows Phone after Microsoft removed it from the Marketplace, AVG has responded to some of the complaints leveled against the software.

Lance Whitney
Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
3 min read

AVG is sticking by its new antivirus software for Windows Phone despite a flurry of complaints and a decision by Microsoft to remove the app from the Marketplace.

Launched a week ago, the app by AVG was designed to detect and remove viruses on Windows Phone devices. But after a couple of external experts noted that there are presently no viruses on Windows Phone and that the software seemed to violate guidelines by capturing certain private data, Microsoft pulled the app from its online store late last week.

Responding to Microsoft's move, AVG's Chief Technology Officer Yuval Ben-Itzhak issued a statement on Friday in an attempt to address the two major complaints against the app, known as AVG Mobilation.

The first complaint centered on the app improperly using a geolocation feature to track Windows Phone devices and send certain data back to AVG. Ben-Itzhak acknowledged that the app does include such a feature but claimed that its only purpose is to help a user locate a phone should it ever be lost or stolen.

"This feature was a response to requests by many mobile users and is a functionality that exists in many other mobile products," Ben-Itzhak said. "To do this effectively, AVG Mobilation is enabled to uniquely identify a device and read its geolocation by utilizing the built-in GPS system."

Further, the user has the option of keeping geotracking enabled or opting out of it and of deciding whether or not to input an e-mail address, presumably to be informed of the phone's location.

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Microsoft collects phone location data without permission, says researcher

The second complaint focused on the need for a Windows Phone antivirus app in the first place if no viruses yet exist on the platform. Here, Ben-Itzhak admitted that any viruses and malware aimed at Windows Phone 7 are relatively few at this point. But he added that the app is about more than just scanning for viruses.

"Protecting valuable personal information on mobile devices is not just about scanning for viruses and other malware," he said. "It is also about protecting against outside threats that are using the Internet as an attack vector, threats such as phishing attacks for instance."

Ben-Itzhak also compared Windows Phone 7 to Android, pointing out that three years ago, Android faced few viruses and malware. But as Google's mobile OS has grown in popularity, so have the threats against it.

In a blog published early last Friday before the app's outster from the MarketPlace, AVG said that it had actually worked with Microsoft to develop the software.

"Our teams were trained by Microsoft and our software was provided to the company for review and certification prior to release," AVG noted in the blog. "We did implement a number of requested changes provided to us by Microsoft."

Despite Ben-Itzhak's defense of AVG Mobilation, the app seems to have violated certain guidelines, at least according to Microsoft. The Windows Phone maker confirmed with CNET last Friday that it's currently working with AVG to make sure the app follows Windows Phone guidelines.

"AVG's app has been removed from Windows Phone Marketplace while we work with AVG to ensure that the app is in full compliance with our published policies," Microsoft said in a statement.

"While we never like to see our products pulled from app stores, we understand that Microsoft is simply following its established process for reviewing products once questions have been raised by individuals in the marketplace," Ben-Itzhak added. "We look forward to the product's quick return to the digital shelves of the Windows Phone 7 app store."