Rent-to-own stores installed video spying software on up to 420,000 rental computers, enabling them to capture images of their customers in various stages of undress and while having sex. Financial and medical records stored on the computers were also compromised, according to a complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Apparently, it wasn’t enough to fleece low-income people for up to four times the retail price of the computers. Rental companies secretly turned on the Web cams and zoomed in on some of their customers’ most personal moments. The software captured screenshots of computer activities, traced keystrokes and collected pictures of children.
The FTC complaint covers several rent-to-own stores, including franchisees of Premier Rental Purchase, Aaron’s and ColorTyme, according to reports. DesignerWare, based in North East, Pa., furnished the Detective Mode software used on the computers.
Alleged violations of the FTC Act included gathering sensitive data and sending it to rent-to-own store employees, without customers’ consent or knowledge, the complaint states. Geophysical tracking devices installed on the computers allowed stores to track the location of the computers and gather information used for collecting past-due bills.
“An agreement to rent a computer doesn’t give a company license to access consumers’ private e-mails, bank account information, and medical records, or, even worse, webcam photos of people in the privacy of their own homes,” Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC said. “The FTC orders today will put an end to their cyber spying.”
Under the FTC agreement, the companies will no longer be able to monitor customers or place tracking devices on computers without consumer knowledge. They are also barred from using deception to collect and disperse customer information, the Associated Press reported.
In other words, the FTC has ordered the software company and the rental companies to stop it. Yes, that’s all. Just stop it.
Then again, telling them to stop it is more than what is being said to some of the biggest hacks and spying fanatics of all – other government agencies.
In 2010, the Lower Merion School District in suburban Philadelphia was accused of using webcam laptops to spy on students. The district faced a class action lawsuit for allegedly using 1,800 school-issued laptops to spy on students and their parents. That was also done without their knowledge or consent.
You know what that means.
If a similar lawsuit is successful against the rent-to-own companies, their former customers could be paying cash for their computers and 50-inch flat screen TVs.
Allegations of the rent-to-own companies' computer spying were brought to light in May 2011, along with a class action lawsuit.