Rent-to-Own Laptop Users’ Privacy Violated
Several rent-to-own laptop companies have illegally been using spyware software to spy on users by turning on webcams and monitoring computer activity.
Violation of Privacy of Laptop Users
According to David Kravets of Wired, a spy tool, known as Detective Mode, was installed on approximately 420,000 rent-to-own laptops. According to the complaint, Detective Mode secretly and illegally gathers information from a user and transmits it to DesignWare, who then transmits the information to the rent-to-own store from which the computer was rented. Meanwhile, the user has no knowledge of Detective Mode or of its capabilities.
Egregious Privacy Violations
Detective Mode capabilities:
- Turn on webcams.
- Log keystrokes of the computer user.
- Take screen shots of the computer user’s activities on the computer.
- Photograph and/or video anyone within view of the computer’s webcam.
Specifically, Detective Mode took pictures of:
- Individuals not fully clothed, and
- Couples engaged in sexual activities.
Other Private Data Collected From Users
- User names and passwords for
- E-mail accounts
- Social media websites
- Financial institutions
- Social Security numbers
- Medical records
- Private e-mails regarding
- Bank and credit card statements
Punishment for Violations
For such extreme violations, the FTC required Detective Mode’s software maker, “DesignerWare,” and the rent-to-own companies (the ones using the private information provided from Detective Mode) to halt the usage of said spy software. From now on, such companies are required to notify a laptop user of the presence of the spy tool and its function. The sanction, however, seems small compared to the gravity of the offense against individual privacy.
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