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Aaron Computer Rental Firm Spies On Users 510

An anonymous reader writes with word from Yahoo news of a lawsuit "filed on behalf of a Wyoming couple who said they learned about the PC Rental Agent 'device and/or software' inside the computer they rented last year when an Aaron's Inc. store manager in Casper came to their home on Dec. 22. The manager tried to repossess the computer because he mistakenly believed the couple hadn't finished paying for it, the couple said. Brian Byrd, 26, said the manager showed him a picture of Byrd using the computer — taken by the computer's webcam. The image was shot with the help of spying software, which the lawsuit contends is made by North East, Pa.-based Designerware LLC and is installed on all Aaron's rental computers."
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Aaron Computer Rental Firm Spies On Users

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @10:27PM (#36019670)

    The interesting legal argument to be made is whose consent is needed in order to have violated any "unauthorized access" laws like the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Aaron's owns the computer, so do they own the data on it by default like an employee on a work computer? Or is it wiretapping without a warrant into communication they weren't party to (between the user and their bank/email/etc)?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @10:33PM (#36019720)

    > made financial sense to make a final $900 payment to own the computer outright. That was in October.

    So yet again the same lesson: _never_ trust a computer on which you have not installed the OS yourself, and kept 100% secure from malware.

    It just boggles my mind seeing people use these computers from big box stores loaded up with crapware, without having the first idea what all that shit does. Why would you use a computer like that? It's idiotic. This case is an even worse example: you trusted the OS that was there, which came complete with spyware.

  • by Joe The Dragon ( 967727 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @10:41PM (#36019772)

    you can't consent to child porn and you can't sign away your rights or have stuff in the fine print saying we can read your CC or SS or bank account numbers from the system.

    "Crystal gets online before she gets a shower and checks her grades," Brian Bird said. "Who knows? They could print that stuff off there and take it home with them."

    He added: "I've got a 5-year-old boy who runs around all day and sometimes he gets out of the tub running around for 20, 30 seconds while we're on the computer. What if they took a picture of that? I wouldn't want that kind of garbage floating around out there."

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @11:20PM (#36020064) Journal
    Unless there are additional details not disclosed on their kinda sleazy looking; but unabashed [] website, the hardware component seems like it is either a mistake(perhaps referring to some sort of anti-theft tag?) or an additional feature specific to this major chain.

    If you look at the company's pricing information, it only quotes software licensing fees and prices for additional/replacement/updated install media. No mention of hardware components, much less the sort of model-specific inventory mess that any deep integration would require. Obviously, the information available on the seller's site for that offering doesn't preclude a custom offering for a large customer, with more robust features; but it also isn't as though lying about the existence of super-tough hardware security in order to reduce the risk that your clueless customer tries to have their nephew who "knows computers" install a cracked copy of XP on a "bricked" machine would be a terribly unlikely strategy...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @11:31PM (#36020132)

    I work at an Aarons Sales and Lease. . As the resident tech guy, I install the PC agent software on all computers before they are sold. If we don't hear from a customer for more than usually around ten days after their bill is due, we send a lock out message. The software pings the server and a red screen pops up asking them to call the store. When they pay or make an arrangement with us, we give them a 7 digit code that unlocks it. It provides ability to view screenshots and take webcam shots but it is only used when a computer is reported stolen and we have a copy of a police report than we utilize it. When they pay out, I go online and mark the agent for uninstall and thats that.

    As far at the RTO business model criticism goes, Aaron's at least cost about as much as if you charged it. All the computers have a two year warranty and I provide damn good customer service which makes up for any more of a price difference.

  • Designerware (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @12:12AM (#36020342) Homepage

    State of Pennsylvania Business Search []:

    Fictitious Names - Domestic
    Entity Number: 2808492
    Status: Active
    Entity Creation Date: 3/30/1998
    State of Business.: PA
    Principal Place of Business: 108 HUTCHINSON
    NORTH EAST (a real place, a borough of Erie County 5 miles northeast of the city of Erie) PA 16428-1710

    Owners Name: TIMOTHY S KELLY

    Google Maps shows that as a 2-story frame house in reasonably good condition with two cars in the driveway..

    Dun and Bradstreet reports

    Single Location: 108 HUTCHINSON DR, NORTH EAST, PA

    You can buy a D&B credit report on them. []

    Checking Erie County property records:

    Address 108 | HUTCHINSON | DR
    Acreage 0.2870
    Topo LEVEL
    Utility ALL PUBLIC
    Land Value / Taxable 18,000 / 18,000.00
    Building Value / Taxable 120,560 / 120,560.00
    Total Value / Taxable 138,560 / 138,560.00
    Clean & Green: Inactive
    Homestead Status: Active
    Basement FULL
    Year Built 1973
    Exterior Wall ALUMINUM/VINYL
    Total Living Area 3156
    Full Baths 2, Half Baths 1
    Stories 2.0, Total Bedrooms 3, Total Family Rooms 0, Total Rooms 7, Fireplaces 1
    Sales History: 1/26/1990

  • Re:Rent a computer? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Velex ( 120469 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @07:50AM (#36022494) Journal

    Ok, this is what I have never understood about the poor. I've lived on ~12k per year before at a fast food job I WALKED TO, so I know what I'm talking about. Perhaps as long as they get their government check and government foodstamps they'll never understand.

    All that you have to do to get a "credit card" is open an account at a credit union. You don't need credit for that. Just get a damned job, go to a credit union with your first paycheck, and open an account. Problem solved. It's not some magical thing that only rich white kids can do.

    What the hell happened to personal responsibility?

  • Re:Whoops (Score:5, Interesting)

    by realityimpaired ( 1668397 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @08:26AM (#36022760)

    Not an American, but I usually keep a float of about $1000 (CAD) in my bank account to pay for incidentals, the rest of the overage in my monthly budget goes towards paying my car loan and mortgage off faster. If I wanted to, I could easily put away more (there's a little over $600/mo surplus in my monthly budget), but it makes better economic sense to pay off those large loans faster, in order to reduce the interest that I'm paying overall: if I pay my car loan off 2 years early, I only pay 0.9% interest on the thing (it goes up to 1.9% in the final two years). The mortgage is a higher interest rate anyway, and for now, that's what I'm overpaying.

    It's well and good to suggest that people should be saving more money, but there's times where building up your savings is a bad idea. Most poor people aren't even in a position where building up their savings is an option because they simply aren't paid enough, and many if not most middle class people are in the same situation that I am: putting away money is possible, but it's bad economic sense in the long run, because they can save thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars by paying off their debt faster.

  • Re:Whoops (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @08:58AM (#36023028)
    There is something to what you say. However, I have yet to meet someone who was struggling to make ends meet who did not have cable TV, an air conditioner and a game system. I am sure there are some, but most Americans could reduce their expenses to some degree if they were willing to sacrifice some of their entertainment choices.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson