Update: Aaron’s Rent-To-Own Chain Settles FTC Charges That it Enabled Computer Spying by Franchisees
Last year, the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement (that was approved in April) with companies (including several franchisees of Aaron’s Rent-To-Own) concerning surveillance software that was installed on computers that consumers rented from them. The software allowed access to personal e-mails, financial and medical data and webcam photos of partially undressed individuals, the FTC said. Now, the FTC has negotiated a settlement with Aaron’s Rent-T0-Own concerning privacy charges about the same software, PC Rental Agent, from DesignerWare. The FTC says:
Aaron’s, Inc., a national, Atlanta-based rent-to-own retailer, has agreed to settle FTC charges that it knowingly played a direct and vital role in its franchisees’ installation and use of software on rental computers that secretly monitored consumers including by taking webcam pictures of them in their homes.
According to the FTC’s complaint, Aaron’s franchisees used the software, which surreptitiously tracked consumers’ locations, captured images through the computers’ webcams – including those of adults engaged in intimate activities – and activated keyloggers that captured users’ login credentials for email accounts and financial and social media sites. […]
The complaint alleges that Aaron’s knew about the privacy-invasive features of the software, but nonetheless allowed its franchisees to access and use the software, known as PC Rental Agent. In addition, Aaron’s stored data collected by the software for its franchisees and also transmitted messages from the software to its franchisees. In addition, Aaron’s provided franchisees with instructions on how to install and use the software. […]
Under the terms of the proposed consent agreement with the FTC, Aaron’s will be prohibited from using monitoring technology that captures keystrokes or screenshots, or activates the camera or microphone on a consumer’s computer, except to provide technical support requested by the consumer.
In addition, Aaron’s will be required to give clear notice and obtain express consent from consumers at the time of rental in order to install technology that allows location tracking of a rented product. For computer rentals, the company will have to give notice to consumers not only when it initially rents the product, but also at the time the tracking technology is activated, unless the product has been reported by the consumer as lost or stolen. The settlement also prohibits Aaron’s from deceptively gathering consumer information.
Read the full release to learn what other conditions were put on Aaron’s as part of the settlement with the FTC.