PC Rental Companies Agree To Not Watch You Have Sex

from the i-see-you dept

People are spying on you. All kinds of people. Law encorcement does it. The NSA does it. Schools are monitoring our children. But I'll tell you who is not spying on you: PC rental companies. Well, at least not anymore.

But they were spying on you before federal charges were brought against them. It turns out that seven rent to own PC companies were employing software that logged your keystrokes, retained your social media passwords, recorded your social security passwords, snapped photos of people having sex with web cams, and even allowed rental company employees to deploy a French tickler through the screen to rub people's naughty bits (fine, fine, I made that last one up).

The companies captured screenshots of confidential and personal information, logged keystrokes and took webcam pictures of people in their homes. Their aim was to track the computers belonging to costomers who were behind with their payments.

“An agreement to rent a computer doesn’t give a company license to access consumers’ private emails, bank account information, and medical records, or, even worse, webcam photos of people in the privacy of their own homes,” says FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz. “The FTC orders today will put an end to their cyber spying.”

Yes, thank God for the FTC, because if anyone is going to watch me have sex, it's going to be the neighbors (no, I will not close the window and draw the shades, damn it, I like the breeze!). My question is why the hell anyone, especially the company that made the spying software used, DesignerWare, thought this kind of intrusion was necessary to begin with. Hell, this isn't even the first time a rental company using this software has gotten into trouble over it. The rental companies said they needed the software to remotely shut down and wipe stolen machines, as well as to initiate a kill switch on customer's machines when they were behind in payments. Those both make sense to me. Where do we get the explanation for logging keystrokes and in any way using the web cam?

At least the FTC must have brought the hammer down for such a gross violation of privacy, right?

The rent-to-own companies are Aspen Way Enterprises, Watershed Development, Showplace, JAG Rents, Red Zone, B Stamper Enterprises and CALM Ventures. They've got off lightly, agreeing to stop using the data-collection software and to stop deceiving customers.

I'll have to keep this in mind the next time I break the law. Just agree not to do it again and everything is okay, apparently. In the meantime, anyone who is renting computers can avoid these companies.

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Comments on “PC Rental Companies Agree To Not Watch You Have Sex”

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nospacesorspecialcharacters (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Why oh why...

You’re pendanticulator must be malfunctioning – Linux is an OS, Debian and other distributions are effectively an implementation of the kernel and GUI desktop environment – though they may differ in how they implement the kernel and/or environment.

It’s perfectly possible to download and compile the default kernel – however you’d need some of the separate packages installed to get any use out of it – distributions merely come with a set of default packages for this purpose.

/ducks back behind bunker

Haywood (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Why oh why...

“/ducks back behind bunker”

I’ll draw fire, I’ve looked into it and it is an OS for poor people. Everything you do is very nearly, or completely manual, installing a program is like pulling teeth, expect to be dead last to get driver support for anything. Worst of all it doesn’t play mainstream games. Maybe after every other OS and gaming system has a porting of a game it may fall to Linux, likely not though, and those emulators for windows games not only suck, they often even want money for them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Why oh why...

Eh, you’re right about drivers (mostly – too often the drivers are bad or reverse-engineered, and performance suffers) and games. Especially games. There’s the free Wine emulator but it often fails to work, and of course it slows everything down. However, installing almost all applications is very easy, IMO better than in Windows. I’ve used the two biggest package managers, apt and yum, and they handle dependencies very well and automatically. There are GUI’s for them, and loads of free packages available. I’ve only had to install stuff from source a couple times. I personally like the command line for the speed and control, but Ubuntu in particular has plenty of user-friendly tools.

Haywood (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Why oh why...

I was being a little tough on it, I actually liked Kubutu, and if I was making a gift computer for Grandma, I’d likely use it. Yes, you are right again, the apps for installing apps have gotten pretty good.
This assumes you have a broadband connection, which today isn’t a stretch. I was amazed how dependent it was on the “cloud” data bases, but once you had it percolating it was pretty much tag it and bag it for any reasonable application. A little churning and it downloaded it installed & made a shortcut. If all I wanted to do was surf and an occasional office task, maybe print a photo or 2 I’d consider it.

nospacesorspecialcharacters (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Why oh why...

Wow, you ‘looked into it’? When was that, 1996?

I use Linux extensively for work and home, I have little problems with gaming or productivity. I have to say I haven’t regretted one moment switching from Windows and now when I’m forced to use MS tech (clients’ systems) I just find myself frustrated at how limited and unintuitive it is.

Not to mention, your probably using at least 2 Linux OSes in your daily life and you don’t even know it. You don’t even have to think about it because Linux is just that reliable.

I constantly find myself amazed at these uninformed comments, even on tech sites.

Haywood (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Why oh why...

I’d say it was about 2009, & as stated in my other post, if I wanted a computer for Grandma, it would be my first choice. She’d never figure out how to screw it up.
I’d also love to put a few clients on Ubuntu, unfortunately business apps generally require windows, you’re damn lucky if they work with that, and that’s just the reality of life.
It really doesn’t matter if it is superior in many ways, it isn’t what suppliers expect to see, and that makes it a poor choice.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: what's the problem?

But what if the webcam was on at the same time as the TV? Then they’d totally be downloading copyrighted material.

OK, but seriously, I can understand a company wanting to track computers that actually belong to the company. The problem is, if this level of tracking software is installed, the computer becomes worthless for any sort of private communications. Not to mention the fact that the actions seem to constitute wiretapping, at the very least – a communication is being intercepted electronically, and that’s pretty much all you need.

The most I would allow is a “ping” allowing the company to know the IP address of the computer. And even that should be disclosed to the customer at the time of rental.

Anonymous Coward says:

In my former days working as a computer technician, I was surprised by the crap some technicians would do to people’s machines. From grabbing a copy of your iTunes folder, burning a copy of that video game you can’t get to work, going through your personal documents, even reading through saved MSN Messenger logs. I heard there was a previous technician at my old job that was actually installing trojans on computers so that he could spy on people at home.

I finally had enough and left after my I found out my boss scammed a nun (Yes, a real nun in a convent). It’s a good thing I left, as the RCMP came by my place the following year to ask me questions related to the company and my former boss, turns out my boss was also falsifying tax remittances and some other counts of fraud. It was a good learning experience though for a naive student right out of high school.

I wonder if my old boss is running one of these PC rent to own places now.

Anonymous Coward says:

High Court Low Court

Company installs spyware to spy on private citizens — gets off with a wrist slap. Private citizen installs spyware to spy on company — full majesty of anti-hacker law descends, citizen goes to jail.

High Court Low Court is alive and well in the US legal system.

That said, people really should be more careful with computers that are actually legally owned by someone else. That someone might have installed any kind of malware/spyware/adware/whatever. Same thing applies to cloud computers or computer bureaus. The only computer you truly own is the one you truly own. Even then, you will find companies/governments trying to take away your control (DRM anyone).

If you are grandma, get your computer checked out by someone knowledgeable whom you can really trust.

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