Spyware On Rent-To-Own Computers Not OK: FTC
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that spyware on rental computers are not allowed.
The FTC's announcement comes on the heels of a lawsuit brought by a Wyoming couple. The couple claims that the furniture rental company Aaron's Inc. took photos of the couple on their rented Dell laptop without their knowledge or permission, reports Forbes.
The FTC ordered Aaron's and six other furniture rental companies to stop putting the spyware on unsuspecting customers’ computers. These companies were not fined or penalized, but they were ordered to stop the practice.
So why do these furniture rental companies put the spyware on the computers in the first place? Are they perverts? Identity thieves?
It appears that Aaron's and other companies install the software onto the computers to make it easier to repossess the computers in case of non-payment, reports Forbes. The spyware can allow the companies to location-track the computers and take control of the screen and webcam.
The Wyoming couple that brought the lawsuit was reportedly on-time with payments, so it's unclear exactly why the photos were snapped. That may explain the lawsuit.
Nevertheless, the FTC will now require all furniture rental companies to get the customers' express consent to track and spy on them. The Chairman of the FTC said that, “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.”
In addition, you should remember that just because the FTC choose not to fine the companies involved, this does not mean you cannot sue to recover for your damages. If you believe your privacy rights have been violated by such spyware, you may want to talk to a consumer protect lawyer. You can also ask questions about privacy rights on our message board.
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- Ninth Circuit Grants Anti-Spyware Providers Safe Harbor Under Section 230 (FindLaw's Technologist)