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back to article FTC settles spying charges on rent-to-own computers

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has settled a case against a software vendor and seven rent-to-own PC sellers over charges that they illegally spied on customers. According to the settlement, software company DesignerWare sold an application for sellers of rent-to-own PCs that would enable them to brick computers that were …

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Facepalm

Seriously?

...it included user names and passwords for email accounts, social media websites, and financial institutions; Social Security numbers; medical records; private emails to doctors; bank and credit card statements; and webcam pictures of children, partially undressed individuals, and intimate activities at home.

You could argue that the computer rental firms have a perfect right to protect their property from theft or delinquent customers by installing such software.

You could argue that but I wouldn't suggest trying it face-to-face with the renter or you may become rapidly acquainted with Mr Darwin's theory.

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Silver badge

What's the first thing you do with a new computer?

Wipe off all the vendor supplied software and install Linux. Now, what was the problem?

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Big Brother

re: re-installing

I bet your sweet ass that would be in breach of the rental contract, with all the nastyness of fines etc. in it's wake. Plus I have no doubt that there'd be a hardware component involved, including the usual case switches, that was set up to detect any form of tampering short of outright destruction.

Securing PC's for rental is a rather nice thought-exercise in security for anyone, but I can see no reason at all that necessitates password logging and other unsavoury features mentioned in the article.

The mind boggles, really.

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Bronze badge

Re: re: re-installing...breach of the rental contract,

No doubt, this spyware probably "phones home" on a regular basis, and if the servers do not get pinged often enough; someone gets an alert.

I wonder, what happens after the expiry of the rent to own contract, that point where you are supposed to own the machine??? Does this shit get left behind?? Is it removed??? Enquiring minds want to know?

I will say this, if I were ever stupid enough to enter into one of these agreements; I would expect that once I fulfilled the contract; what ever O/S was on the machine, would get nuked from orbit; and that the RTO company would have NO SAY about it. After all, it is supposed to be my machine at that point.

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Unhappy

Re: What's the first thing you do with a new computer?

If you *own* it.

The users in this case did not.

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FAIL

And the FBI...

And the FBI is probably banging itself on the head, saying "why didn't we think of that!"... :rolleyes:

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Unhappy

Re: And the FBI...

The UK home office have a group who want to spy on people forever as well.

This would be 2.0 for them.

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Anonymous Coward

Huh?

Somebody (quite a few somebody's) actually thought this was OK? I'm not sure if its worse they did it, or that they're apparently not going to jail.

Fuck transparency; decency and proportionality will do me fine.

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Bronze badge

Rent a pc?

Amazing that sheeple would rent a PC. One, it has Windows on it. Two, it is probably cheaper to buy one used.

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Coat

Re: Rent a pc?

Probably has something to do with finance issues. I know a few people who- since the recession kicked in - are unable to get credit for anything. Yes,boxes are cheap these days , but if replacing a suddenly dead machine costs more than you have available as a lump sum, then people are likely to turn to schemes like rent to own and the like.

Coat - their hand in your pocket

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Silver badge

What about criminal charges?

As I understand it the FTC has said "that was wrong : stop it now", and the miscreants are liable to fines if they ignore the order.

What about criminal charges for the clearly illegal spying on customers? Or wasn't it illegal at the time?

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Re: What about criminal charges?

As I read it there wasn't any suggestion that it had actually been used for spying, just that it could be and that the user should have been notified of that possibility.

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Re: What about criminal charges?

On the contrary - it is clear from the linked FTC Complaint document that the FTC asserted that the software had been used for spying, in violation of the FTC Act.

To quote :

"23. Through the means described in Paragraphs 5 through 22, in numerous instances

respondents have:

a. Installed monitoring software on rented computers, gathered sensitive

personal, financial, and medical information about consumers from those computers, and

disclosed that personal information to rent-to-own store licensees; ..."

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WTF?

Re: What about criminal charges?

Please need to go to JAIL.

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Unhappy

Remeber the school PC with the webcam activiating spyware?

How is this different?

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Re: Remeber the school PC with the webcam activiating spyware?

Actually I think the school PC webcam spying thing is a part of this case, and in response to those saying 'If I had one of these PC's I'd wipe it and put on Linux/new OS straight away' IIRC the students/teachers/others weren't allowed to make any such changes to the computers.

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FAIL

Justice fails AGAIN!

Surely where they overstepped the mark was the way sheer scope of this stuff. it has no need to access webcams ect - thats just creepy and sick and makes you wonder about the mentality of the people involved.

But.. this is what happens.. sheeple are happy to allow ever more intrusive companies like Facebook and Google to catalogue their lives to an extent where many have no conception of personal privacy left, and assume that because Arsefaceplace and Gropele can do it they can go even further and spy on people visually as well as "textually".

Sorry to say this is the second (American) justice fail this week. This demanded Jall time - to send a clear message that there is still a right to individual privacy - especially in ones own home. Looks like big commerce has the legal system as hog tied as it has the political one. Corruption by any other name still stinks.

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Bronze badge

Punishment?

420,000 possible litigants - go for it!

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Big Brother

UK Company?

If a UK firm had done this and sold some to the US.....you could bet your life the MD would be on a plane to get some American justice ..... 25 years for each violation....that's 30,000 years you have to serve....and $1Bn will do as a fine.

Or Oh you are a US company....naughty, naught....please do not do it again!

We are all equal...just some are more equal than others.

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Anonymous Coward

and the data collected?

There is nothing in the article that says what should happen to the data the firms collected.....does that mean the companies get to keep it?

Jail them...fine them.....

Oh but people that "Rented" these will be the poor people....so they really do not count very much do they?

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