Rental Computers from Aaron’s are Spying on You

Renting furniture, home appliances and electronics is pretty easy these days, thanks to chain store Aaron’s Inc. With the economy forever tanking, people may not be able to afford to go out and buy something outright. Let’s say your stove bites the dust… heading to Aaron’s and making small(ish) monthly payments is preferable to shelling out several hundred bucks all at once for a lot of you. The same holds true with a computer or laptop. The company carries those, as well, but they aren’t exactly being honest with you when you rent one. It turns out that they are – quite literally – spying on you.

A couple in Wyoming signed an agreement with Aaron’s in early 2010 for the purchase of an Inspiron laptop. They paid the machine off in full a month prior to the end date, in October of that year. Two months later, the store manager showed up at their door and attempted to repossess the laptop, claiming it was never paid off. (Side note: Isn’t it funny that the company never contacted them between the payoff period and when the manager showed up?) While arguing over whether the company had the “right” to the Inspiron, the manager pulled out a photograph of Mr. Byrd using the computer… taken with the built-in webcam.

It turns out that Aaron’s routinely installs several layers of tracking software on every computer they lease. This is made by PC Rental Agent. Supposedly, the Agent is designed to keep track of machines so that no one can run off with them, and to lock customers out if they refuse to pay. However, no consumer is ever told of the presence of this evil little piece of software.

According to the lawsuit filed by the Byrds, law enforcement officials determined that there are tracking components soldered onto the motherboard itself. The laptop also has software installed on the hard drive which allows the chain store complete access via keylogging, screenshots and webcam access. Every single keystroke a customer makes is recorded… Every. Single. Keystroke. They’re also snapping photos of your family and guests to your home doing any number of things!

Hello?! This is likely the worst type of privacy invasion I have ever heard of. The potential for abuse of this software is mind-boggling. Any store employee who can use their end of this monitoring software can now access any sensitive and personal data on thousands of machines running around the United States and Canada. The couple and their lawyer are working to turn this into a class-action suit so that other people can come forward. In this case, I am all in favor of a huge lawsuit being slapped on a company by a heck of a lot of former customers.

What are your thoughts?