Federal Trade Commission settles with rent-to-own outfit whose alleged privacy violations make “1984” look tame

by Bradley Girard (guest post)

File this under terrifying. Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission settled with Aaron's,
a rent-to-own furniture company, over charges that Aaron’s violated laws
protecting consumer privacy. Aaron’s franchisees were allegedly renting computers with pre-installed software that secretly
monitored consumers and transmitted information back to Aaron’s. Now, this would be
cause for concern even if it were run-of-the-mill tracking used by many of your
favorite browsers and social media platforms. But the software used here,
PC Rental Agent, goes much further. PC Rental Agent, for example, monitors
keystrokes, takes screenshots, and provides fake “software registration”
screens that prompt users to enter private account information such as
passwords for financial and email accounts. Possibly the most frightening PC Rental Agent attribute is its ability to remotely activate a user’s webcam and microphone,
secretly recording images and audio of users in their own homes.

6017324282_52684ac669Unsurprisingly, Aaron’s neither admits nor denies the allegations
in the agency's complaint and has not commented publicly because of pending
lawsuits. The consent order, among other things, enjoins Aaron’s and its
franchisees from using the tracking software without express consent from consumers for specified uses, but it provides no monetary payments. The agreement is subject to a 30-day comment period, which ends on Nov. 21, 2013.

For more information, read the FTC's press release. [picture courtesy of Jhack]

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