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Security Privacy Your Rights Online

FTC And PC Rental Companies Settle In Spying On Users Case 80

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the just-when-ubuntu-was-about-to-sign-up dept.
SternisheFan writes with news of a settlement in a case of Rent-to-Own firms grossly violating the privacy of their customers. From the article: "Seven rent-to-own companies and a software developer have settled federal charges that they spied on customers, ... The companies captured screenshots of confidential and personal information, logged keystrokes, and took webcam pictures of people in their homes. Their aim was to track the computers belonging to customers who were behind with their payments. 'An agreement to rent a computer doesn't give a company license to access consumers' private emails, bank account information, and medical records, or, even worse, webcam photos of people in the privacy of their own homes,' says FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz. 'The FTC orders today will put an end to their cyber spying.' Developer DesignerWare produced the software that was used to gather the information, PC Rental Agent. The package included a 'kill switch' designed to disable a computer of it was stolen, or if payments weren't made. However, an add-on program called Detective Mode could log key strokes, capture screen shots and take photographs using a computer's webcam, says the FTC in its complaint (PDF)."
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FTC And PC Rental Companies Settle In Spying On Users Case

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  • Direct your outrage (Score:4, Informative)

    by onyxruby (118189) <`ten.tsacmoc' `ta' `yburxyno'> on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @09:28AM (#41463077)

    Direct your outrage on this on to the people who let them get away with this. They settled for no fines or penalties. When the watchers let the scumbags get off with a slap on the wrist the message is clear.

  • by ledow (319597) on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @09:35AM (#41463185) Homepage

    As someone who has, quite literally, had to tear the sofa apart to find enough pennies for the cheapest loaf of bread in the shop so my girlfriend and I could eat that week, ONLY IDIOTS.

    I've been in very undesirable financial positions both through faults of my own and not, and I tell you that I never once rented an appliance or gadget. Lots of companies have the same kind of "penalty" for not having money, starting with banks for instance. That's not the problem here - the problem is IDIOTS who rent an unnecessary gadget.

    Firstly, they are among the FIRST things you give up on and sell off. Honestly. They are not a necessity, and if you can afford the money to keep a broadband connection going, you're not desperate enough to rent a machine to run on it. TV, PC, phone. Get rid of them. If you haven't, you're not "in trouble", you're just temporarily "skint/broke" which is another thing entirely.

    Secondly, if you have to rent one, you have to work out how much it costs and it ALWAYS costs you more to rent rather than buy outright (like any of those "pay weekly" catalogues and anything else of that nature). Hell, from some places, it's cheaper to get a loan on an item of jewellery (and even just one of those pay-day) and pay back the loan+interest than it is to rent or even lease a PC.

    Thirdly, if you're in that position, and you do think you NEED to RENT a LAPTOP for whatever reason, you're an idiot. You can save money by going to the library and using theirs.

    If you can't do that, take up an old PC from a boot sale or ask companies/schools that are throwing them out. Hell, you'll learn Linux rather than pay £200 Windows tax on a machine if it actually mattered. But, again, you don't really need a PC and if you do, you "need" an Internet connection much more for half the reasons those type of people state (e.g. "saving money on energy suppliers", etc. - you will NOT save enough money to buy a laptop and always-on connection, so don't give me that crap).

    But a laptop, especially, is not required - if your job requires you to have roaming access from anywhere, they will pay for it. The only reason to have a laptop over a PC is absolute necessity for the task at hand (and thus will be provided), or complete narcissism. They are more expensive, less durable, less powerful and more expensive to repair.

    I have little sympathy for those who rent such things, or even those who rent basic appliances. What sympathy I have is only for their intrusion of privacy, not for their situation.

    My mum rented a TV for 30 years (different models, but basically the same rental) until one broke once and the company gave us hassle, and my brother and I worked out how much we'd spent on it. It was enough to re-buy a new TV every two years over that period and still have money left over. We'd quite literally have had 15-20 fully-working TV's (even after accidents, breakages, etc.) somewhere in the house if we'd put the same money into a box and bought a TV whenever it was enough.

    The TV went back and we bought a new TV the same day, which last 5 years until dad changed it for another one for the price of what would have been 1 years rental (and there was nothing wrong with the 5-year-old one either and went to my brother's house).

    Renting appliances is stupid. Even renting houses is stupid but that's an order of magnitude more expensive and buying a house requires a credit history and, thus, you can see that not everyone will ever be able to buy rather than rent. But renting, you are just pissing your money away and paying off someone else's mortgage for them, plus 10%. And, yes, I rented for many years.

    Renting cars? You're insane. Renting appliances? God, shoot me now.

    Everybody: If you find yourself renting objects because you "can't afford it", if you find yourself paying into Christmas clubs because "you can't afford it", if you find yourself signing contracts for monthly payments because "you can't afford to buy it" and then try to

  • by dsvick (987919) on Wednesday September 26, 2012 @09:39AM (#41463241) Homepage

    You're absolutely right, not everyone has the cash to purchase even inexpensive things outright, however, going through the rental companies is an absolutely horrible idea. I've never rented from one myself but was close quite some time ago when my girlfriend of the time and I were thinking of renting one of those cool video cassette player things... Even with their rent to own programs the amount of money you will end up spending is often three or four times the cost of the buying the product outright. Sure it is spread over time but even then the payments are not as low as you may think.

    Have you ever seen any of their adds, did you notice how inexpensive it all sounds, a computer rental for $8, a desk for it for $4, even a nice comfy chair for a few bucks more. However, if you look at the small print, these prices are the weekly rates, by the time you total it all up and add in whatever other fees they tack on, I would bet you're at the point where you could save your money for a few months and go buy your own.

    They suck you in with the glossy adds and the seemingly low rates, then when you find out the truth your sitting in the store with the shiny new PC in front of you and it's quite hard to turn down. After all, you only need to pay the rental for a year or two and it'll be yours. People that get sucked into these things and the payday loans are just widening the gap you mentioned

User hostile.