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    Update on Privacy Lawsuit Against Aaron’s Rental Company

    In May, a class-action lawsuit (pdf) was filed in the Western District of Pennsylvania against rental chain Aaron’s Inc. “Crystal and Brian Byrd, of Casper, Wyo., sued Atlanta-based Aaron’s and affiliates, claiming Aaron’s ‘secretly installed a spying device’ called ‘PC Rental Agent’ on its rental computers, allowing Aaron’s ‘to surreptitiously monitor, intercept and collect plaintiffs’ electronic communications from anywhere in the world,’” reported Courthouse News. The suit claims that Aaron’s “spies on customers by equipping rent-to-own computers with secret software that remotely snaps their photos, takes screen shots, tracks keystrokes, and snoops on private communications.”

    In June, U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter rejected a request for the shutdown of certain aspects of the software during the lawsuit. Now, Courthouse News reports that U.S. District Judge Sean McLaughlin also refuses to grant the preliminary injunction sought by the Byrds.

    The Byrds say the spyware is part of the software’s Detective Mode, which Aaron’s uses surreptitiously and illegally to take screenshots, capture keystrokes and other information from consumers, presumably to deal with customers who are delinquent on rental payments. […]

    In their May 9 request for an injunction, the Byrds accused the defendants of destroying evidence by “systematically removing Web postings, deactivating and removing the PC Rental Agent, and perhaps deactivating and wiping clean the PC Rental Agent server itself … without notice to plaintiffs or their counsel.”

    They asked the court to enjoin spoliation of evidence, and prohibit the defendants from contacting proposed class members about the lawsuit. They claimed they had “become aware that Aaron’s has been contacting customers through ‘robo calls’ to tell them that plaintiffs’ allegations regarding Aaron’s have no merit.”

    The software company behind PC Rental Agent is celebrating the decision by McLaughlin. DesignerWare’s ears had said that the injunction “would be catastrophic to this small, Erie-based business that has already lost approximately 30 percent of its revenue since plaintiffs’ complaint was filed.”

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