Company Agrees to Stop Spying Through Rented Computers

Company Agrees to Stop Spying Through Rented Computers

Back in May of 2011, we first shared the disturbing details of “rent-to-own” stores using laptop and desktop webcams to spy on their customers.

According to the FTC’s complaint (PDF), Aaron’s software tracked customers’ locations, took photos with the computers’ Webcams “including those of adults engaged in intimate activities,” and activated keyloggers that were able to capture login credentials for everything from e-mail to Facebook to banking sites.–

Amazingly enough, it has taken more than 2 years for one of the companies at the center of a related lawsuit – has finally agreed to end this practice.

Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission announced that Aaron’s has agreed to settle these charges and make sure franchisees cease the spying…
The proposed consent agreement [PDF] bars the retailer from using monitoring technology that captures keystrokes or screenshots, or activates the camera or microphone on a consumer’s computer, except to provide technical support requested by the consumer. If Aaron’s wants to install location-tracking software on a computer, it will be required to give clear notice and obtain express consent from consumers at the time of rental. Furthermore, unless a computer has been reported lost or stolen, Aaron’s will have to give notice to consumers when it activates any sort of tracking technology.
The Consumerist 10/23/2013

Original article was first posted on 5/24/2011.

I Can See You In Your Home

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any creepier, a lawsuit brings to light that “rent-to-own” stores are using laptop and desktop webcams to spy on their customers.

The ABA Journal reported that Brian Byrd, 26 and his wife Chrystal, 24, are sueing Aarons, Inc. They are alleging Aaron’s installed software that could monitor key strokes, capture desktop images, and worst of all use the included WebCam to view and snap pictures. The young couple had no idea they were being spied on and probably never would have known, if the store manager hadn’t mistakenly tried to repossess the computer. During a discussion with Brian, the store manager produced a picture of Brian Byrd that was taken by the computers webcam.

Using a software kill switch is pretty much standard practice for stores renting this type of equipment. It gives the store a needed degree of protection. But in this case things seem to have gone to far and entered into the realm of creepy. The software used on this computer was made by the Pennsylvania based, Designerware LLC. It is installed and used on all of the computers rented from their 1,500 stores through out the United States. It’s unsure how things will shake out in court but there is an issue with using the Internet to access an individuals computer without authorization.

Here’s a quote given the Associated Press that sums it up Byrd’s feelings. “It feels like we were pretty much invaded, like somebody else was in our house. It’s a weird feeling, I can’t really describe it. I had to sit down for a minute after he showed me that picture.” Byrd also said, “Crystal gets online before she gets a shower and checks her grades. Who knows? They could print that stuff off there and take it home with them.”
He added: “I’ve got a 5-year-old boy who runs around all day and sometimes he gets out of the tub running around for 20, 30 seconds while we’re on the computer. What if they took a picture of that?”

The thought of grimy store owners or employees sitting in a back room watching and recording customers was until now beyond even my imagination.

Are you kidding me. My daughter and grandchildren can be viewed by who ever walks in off the street looking for a job in a rent to own store.

This is so creepy that it makes me shiver.

I had just adjusted to the fact that I’m being constantly digitized while scratching, picking and doing everything humans do during the course of a day. The thought of getting on an airplane and submitting to the rude probing pat down and the embarrising scans that are now being used has me looking for train schedules.

I’m aware that in todays world once I walk outside my door, I’m on display. I’m being snapped and filmed at every intersection, store, and sidewalk. I might as well be Lady GaGa or Britney Spears exiting a car. This is too much. I should absolutely be able to sit in my own home, secure in the fact that I can’t be invaded. The almighty dollar is not worth this much loss of freedom. If it’s too risky to rent computers without terrorizing the renters then stop renting.

We’ll have to watch this one to see to see the final results. If the Byrds don’t win this, then we’re all in deep dung. If this goes unchallenged I can imagine cameras filming us from within our cars. Appliance manufactures making sure they know our whereabouts until the dishwasher or refrigerator is paid off. It’s not that big a leap, in fact it’s not a leap at all.

Please let me hear your thought on this. I think it’s important to speak out to help preserve our privacy and freedom.


ABA Journal


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2 thoughts on “Company Agrees to Stop Spying Through Rented Computers

  1. If I ever found out that I was being spied on by a company with whom I was doing retail business, they would soon understand the meaning of fear. Screw the courts. I'd settle matters myself.

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