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September 26, 2012

Seven Rent-to-Own Companies, Software Design Firm Settle Computer Spying Charges with FTC

By Ashok Bindra, TMCnet Contributor

The Associated Press (News - Alert) reports that Federal Trade Commission FTC) on Tuesday settled spying charges with seven rent-to-own companies and a software design firm whose spyware enabled such practices. The companies involved in this settlement were franchises of Aaron’s, ColorTyme, and Premier Rental Purchase. The seven rent-to-own computer companies have agreed to secretly installing spyware on rented PCs and computers. The spyware software came from DesignerWare.

According to the FTC (News - Alert), as per the AP report, the computers captured screenshots of confidential and personal information, logged computer keystrokes and took webcam pictures of people in their homes. FTC said that all this information was gathered without the knowledge or consent of the customers who rented the computers from these companies.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

The software that aided this kind of spying was provided by DesignerWare LLC. The AP report indicates that DesignerWare collected data that allowed rent-to-own stores to track the location of rented computers without renter’s consent or knowledge.

The AP report suggests that the settlement with FTC bars these companies from any further illegitimate monitoring, from activating location-tracking software without the consent of renters and from deceptively collecting and disclosing information about their customers. As part of the settlement, FTC said it will monitor the companies' compliance for the next 20 years and fine them up to $16,000 for every future violation.

Media reports show that DesignerWare’s software used for this application is called Detective Mode, which tracked renters’ locations, captured screen shots and took pictures using computer’s webcam.

 When telephoned by an AP reporter, a person answering the phone said that DesignerWare does not believe that it has done anything wrong and does not have any other comment. However, the person refused to give his name or identity, wrote AP.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Austin 2012, taking place Oct. 2-5, in Austin, TX.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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