What is it with the state of Pennsylvania and webcam spying? The Keystone State may soon be better known as the Keyhole State after yet another scandal involving webcam Peeping Toms.
A Wyoming couple has filed suit against Aaron's in a U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania, accusing the office furniture rental chain of spying on them via PC Rental Agent, software that came preinstalled on the laptop they'd leased.
[ Want to cash in on your IT experiences? InfoWorld is looking for stories of an amazing or amusing IT adventure, lesson learned, or tales from the trenches. Send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org. If we publish it, we'll keep you anonymous and send you a $50 American Express gift cheque. ]
Per Ars Technica:
Crystal and Brian Byrd found this out the hard way in 2010 when they rented a Dell Inspiron laptop from Aaron's, which they paid off in full in October of 2010 -- one month ahead of schedule. Aaron's didn't record the last payment correctly, however, leading an Aaron's store manager to show up at the Byrd home in December in order to repossess the computer. The store manager then produced a photo of Brian Byrd using the machine, taken with the Inspiron's webcam, as apparent "proof" that the Byrds were still using the computer.
The Byrds ended up calling the police, and an investigation later concluded that Aaron's "routinely installed the PC Rental Agent" on all of Aaron's rent-to-own computers. Law enforcement confirmed that the product indeed permitted the company to routinely take webcam photos, screenshots, and log the keystrokes of its customers without their knowledge or consent.
Attorneys for the Angry Byrds are trying to get the suit catalogued as a class action, figuring if the Byrds got spied on, surely other customers of the 1,829-store Aaron's chain ended up as unknowing stars of somebody else's dirty movie. If you're interested in joining the festivities, they have a sufficiently alarmist website ready and waiting for you to sign on.
Why sue in Pennsylvania? Because DesignerWare, developer of the PC Rental Agent spyware, is based in Erie, Pa. And possibly because of what happened in Pennsylvania last year.