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    Time: Rent-to-Own Outfit Allegedly Spied on PC Customers with Webcams

    Time reports on a case concerning allegations of spying on consumers by a retailer, Aaron’s:

    According to the legal firm representing a Casper, Wyoming couple, [rent-to-own retailer Aaron’s Inc.] “can secretly monitor ‘rent-to-own’ computer customers’ electronic communications in violation of federal privacy and technology laws.” […]

    It seems someone from Aaron’s Inc. came to the home of Brian and Crystal Byrd on December 22, 2010 and attempted to repossess their leased computer, claiming the Byrds were in default (the Byrds claim they weren’t).

    Here’s where it gets sinister: While there, the Aaron’s rep allegedly produced a webcam image of Brian Byrd using his computer while at home. No doubt shocked, the Byrds contacted local law enforcement, who investigated and “confirmed electronic surveillance activity.”

    The complaint alleges “It has been the practice and policy of the Aaron’s Defendants to conceal from their customers their ability to remotely access, intercept and monitor customers’ private, personal electronic communications, information, screen shots, keystrokes or images captured on webcams and to further disclose to consumers exactly the kinds of private information and images that can be and were routinely collected, transmitted and stored.”

    Aarons Inc. allegedly uses a software tool and web service called PC Rental Agent, marketed to rent-to-own retailers as a way to remotely manage RTO computer and “disable [the] product when a customer skips or is not paying.”

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