Are rent-to-own computers spying on their new owners? A local Aaron’s rent-to-own center is accused of doing just that.
Aaron’s, Incorporated is a large rental chain that rents a variety of furniture, appliances, and electronics. Recently, a Wyoming couple filed a lawsuit against the company for allegedly installing spyware on their rented computer and failing to notify them.
According to the lawsuit, the company rents installs software and physical hardware on the computers that allow it to capture keystrokes, screenshots, and webcam images of its costumers. The only way to disable it is to wave an electronic wand of sorts over the device.
Privacy experts state that the company has the right to monitor its rent-to-own computers and even install software that will allow them to remotely shut off the computer if the customer stops paying the bill. However, the customer has the right to know if the computer they are renting is being monitored and what data is being collected, said Annie Anton, a computer expert with North Carolina State University.
According to the couple, the store manager showed up at their house with a picture that had been captured using the rent-to-own computers webcam. According to the store manager, the couple was behind on payments and the computer was to be repossessed. The couple however, claimed that they had already paid for the computer in full.
The couple says that when they made their payments, the money was accepted by one of the employees. Sources say that the employee was later suspected of stealing customers’ payments, causing accounts to appear overdue.
A spokesperson for Aaron’s, Incorporated said that the store involved is an independently owned and operated store. The company claims that it has not authorized any of its stores to use such hardware or software described in the lawsuit.