FTC settles PC spying charges with rent-to-own cos

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Trade Commission said Tuesday that seven rent-to-own companies and a software design firm have agreed to settle charges that they spied on people using the computers that consumers rented from them.

According to the FTC, the computers captured screenshots of confidential and personal information, logged computer keystrokes and took webcam pictures of people in their homes. All of these things happened without the knowledge or consent of the people who rented the computers, the FTC said.

Meanwhile, the software design firm, DesignerWare LLC, collected data that allowed rent-to-own stores to track the location of rented computers without consumers' knowledge, the FTC said.

The settlements bar the companies from any further illegal monitoring, from activating location-tracking software without the consent of renters and from deceptively collecting and disclosing information about their customers.

In addition to North East, Pa.-based DesignerWare, the FTC said it also settled with seven companies that operate rent-to-own stores and licensed software from DesignerWare, including franchisees of Aaron's Inc., ColorTyme and Premier Rental Purchase.

A person who answered the phone at DesignerWare said that the company doesn't believe that it's done anything wrong and doesn't have any other comment. He refused to give his name.