FTC agreement: Aaron’s Rent-to-Own to stop computer spying

ID-10050034Sometimes we’re not as careful as we should be about what we reveal online.

But could your computer actually be spying on you, logging keystrokes and taking pictures of you inside your home? For customers of Atlanta-based Aaron’s Rent-to-Own chain, the answer used to be yes.

That’s about to change, however.

The chain recently settled Federal Trade Commission charges that it enabled the use of spy software by its franchisees.

According to the FTC, Aaron’s franchisees used PC Rental Agent–software that secretly tracked consumers’ locations, captured images through webcams (including some images of adults engaging in intimate activities), and activated keyloggers that recorded users’ login information for banks and social media sites.

The FTC alleges that Aaron’s knew about the privacy-invading features of the software, but allowed franchisees to access and use it, stored data the software collected and transmitted messages from the software to its franchisees. Aaron’s also allegedly instructed franchisees on how to install and use the software.

Under the proposed consent agreement with the FTC, Aaron’s will not be allowed to use monitoring technology that captures keystrokes or screenshots, or that uses the camera or microphone except to provide tech support to consumers.

Aaron’s also will have to give clear notice and get consent from consumers at the time of rental before it can install location-tracking technology in a rented product. If it receives consent to use that technology, the company still must notify the consumer when it is activated, unless the consumer reports the product lost or stolen.

Aaron’s is prohibited from deceptively gathering consumer information. The company cannot use any information received through improper means for collection of any debt, money or property as part of a rent-to-own transaction. 

Aaron’s must delete or destroy any information it improperly collected. Location or tracking data it collects properly must be transmitted in an encrypted format.

Aaron’s will have to monitor its franchisees annually and hold them to the agreement–and terminate franchise agreements with those who do not meet the requirements.