Company that spied with webcams on adults engaged in ‘intimate activities’ settles with FTC

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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A computer rental company whose franchisees spied with webcams on adults engaged in “intimate activities” settled with the Federal Trade Commission, according to an agency announcement.

The FTC announced on Tuesday that Aaron’s, Inc — a national rent-to-own retailer — agreed to settle with the agency after the company was charged with playing a knowing role in helping its franchisees install on rental computers  software that logged computer keystrokes, take screenshots, and use the computer’s webcam.

Franchisees also used WiFi hotspot information to physically track the location of the renter.

According to the FTC’s complaint, franchisees captured login information for social media sites, email accounts, and bank accounts. They also captured medical information, social security and credit card numbers.

In addition, through webcams, franchisees captured images of the users and anyone within view of the camera.

“These included images of minor children as well as individuals not fully clothed and engaged in intimate conduct,” said the complaint.

“Aaron’s franchisees used this illicitly gathered data to assist in collecting past-due payments and recovering computers after default,” said the complaint.

Through the use of a computer program called PC Rental Agent, franchisees could remotely disable a renter’s computer. Another program called Detective Mode would secretly gather personal user information through fake software registration windows.

FTC spokesperson Jay Mayfield told the Daily Caller that because of the FTC Act, the agency is unable to issue a monetary penalty to a first time offender.

“We don’t have the authority to issue a penalty on first violation,” said Mayfield.

The settlement, however, puts the company on a leash now.

The agreement, according to the FTC’s announcement, requires Aaron’s to conduct “annual monitoring and oversight of its franchisees and hold them to the requirements in the agreement that apply to Aaron’s and its corporate stores, and to terminate the franchise agreements of franchises that do not meet those requirements.”

Each violation of the agreement carries a civil penalty of up to $16,000.

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