Rent-to-Own Laptops Spied on Consumers

A Federal Trade Commission complaint says rental laptops from seven businesses secretly stole personal data and photographed users.

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A rent-to-own laptop is an unappealing option to start with, given that you could end up paying as much as 311 percent interest. It’s far cheaper to buy one outright. But worse, it could make you an accidental porn star.

The Federal Trade Commission just reached a proposed settlement with eight companies for creating or using software on its rental laptops that spied on consumers. From the FTC’s complaint…

In numerous instances, data gathered by Detective Mode has revealed private, confidential, and personal details about the computer user. For example, keystroke logs have displayed usernames and passwords for access to email accounts, social media websites, and financial institutions.

Screenshots have captured additional confidential and personal information, including medical records, private emails to doctors, employment applications containing Social Security numbers, bank and credit card statements, and discussions of defense strategies in a pending lawsuit.

When activated, Detective Mode can also cause a computer’s webcam to surreptitiously photograph not only the computer user, but also anyone else within view of the camera. In numerous instances, Detective Mode webcam activations have taken pictures of children, individuals not fully clothed, and couples engaged in sexual activities.

The companies named in the complaint are:

  • DesignerWare, LLC (the company that licensed the software)
  • B. Stamper Enterprises, Inc. (Premier Rental Purchase franchisee)
  • C.A.L.M. Ventures, Inc. (Premier Rental Purchase franchisee)
  • J.A.G. Rents, LLC (ColorTyme franchisee)
  • Red Zone Investment Group, Inc. (ColorTyme franchisee)
  • Watershed Development Corp. (Aaron’s franchisee)
  • Aspen Way Enterprises, Inc.
  • Showplace, Inc.

The proposed settlement imposes no fine. It does ban the worst of these offenses: monitoring, recording, screen capture, and deceptive registration screens that collect personal information. However, the settlement will still allow location tracking, with “consumer consent and notice.”

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