Companies agree to settle computer spying charges

Sep 26, 2012 by Richard Lardner

(AP)—A software program developed to track the locations of rented computers secretly collected confidential and personal information about consumers, including medical records, bank statements and even web cam pictures of couples engaged in sex, the Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday in a settlement that bars eight companies from any further cyber spying.

The case involved seven rental companies and a firm called DesignerWare LLC of North East, Pennsylvania, which licensed its PC Rental Agent software to stores so they could shut off and recover computers that hadn't been returned in time or had been stolen.

But the software could do much more than that, the commission said. When an add-on program known as Detective Mode was activated, the software could capture computer screen shots, furtively take photos using the computer's webcam, log key strokes and trick consumers into providing personal contact information, according to the FTC.

Detective Mode could gather data every two minutes that a computer is connected to the Internet until the program is directed to stop. The information would then be forwarded from DesignerWare's servers to the rental store that activated the program, according to the FTC.

"In numerous instances, Detective Mode webcam activations have taken pictures of children, individuals not fully clothed, and couples engaged in sexual activities," the FTC said.

The commission said the settlements prohibit the companies from further illegal spying, from activating any location-tracking software without customer consent and from deceptively collecting information about consumers.

Explore further: Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

5 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Suit against PC renter raises privacy questions

May 04, 2011

(AP) -- You didn't pay your bill. We need our computer back. And here's a picture of you typing away on it, the computer rental company told a client as it tried to repossess the machine. ...

Pa. suit: Furniture rental co. spies on PC users

May 03, 2011

(AP) -- A major furniture rental chain provides its customers with computers that allow the company to track keystrokes, take screenshots and even snap webcam pictures of renters using the devices at home, a Wyoming couple ...

FCC, FTC seek explanations on phone location data

May 17, 2011

(AP) -- Federal regulators are joining the growing list of public officials demanding answers from Apple Inc. and Google Inc. about the extent to which mobile devices track the location of their users and store detailed ...

US lawmakers plan 'Do Not Track' bills (Update)

May 06, 2011

US lawmakers announced plans on Friday to introduce "Do Not Track" legislation that would let Internet users block companies from gathering information about their online activities.

Recommended for you

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

16 hours ago

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Apr 19, 2014

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

US venture investments highest since 2001 (Update)

Apr 18, 2014

Funding for U.S. startup companies soared 57 percent in the first quarter to a level not seen since 2001, as venture capitalists piled more money into a growing number of deals, according to a report due out Friday.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Argiod
1 / 5 (1) Sep 27, 2012
Humph! Can't trust anyone these days. Privacy seems to be a thing of the past... freedom fading into total control of the populace... at least, until lots of people revolt and take our Founding Fathers idea of Disidence being absolutely the core of our freedoms.
"Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security." --Declaration of Independence
I think their intent is clear. The problem is that when such a government as needs major or total reform... is dangerous at best.

More news stories

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

A homemade solar lamp for developing countries

(Phys.org) —The solar lamp developed by the start-up LEDsafari is a more effective, safer, and less expensive form of illumination than the traditional oil lamp currently used by more than one billion people ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...