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Laptop Spying: Rental Store Put Webcam on Rental

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on May 09, 2011 9:49 AM

Aaron's, Inc., a national rent-to-own retailer, is being sued by a Wyoming couple in Pennsylvania after the couple realized that a laptop it had purchased was equipped with software that was secretly snapping pictures via the computer's webcam.

Why, exactly, has nothing concrete been done about laptop spying?

After making their final payment on a laptop purchased from a local Aaron's, Brian and Crystal Byrd were visited by the store's manager who claimed that they did not pay their bill.

He also allegedly presented the Byrds with a photograph of Brian using the laptop, which he said was taken with the computer's webcam, reports PCWorld.

It turns out that the laptop was equipped with PC Rental Agent, which The Register reports is software built by DesignerWare that allows PC rental companies to remotely monitor activities on computers.

The couple is suing both Aaron's and DesignerWare, alleging that the company installed the software without notifying customers. They are also seeking class action status according to The Register.

In the wake of last year's scandal wherein it was found that a Philadelphia school was secretly snapping pictures of students via school-provided laptops, one has to wonder why laptop spying is still taking place.

Federal legislators looked into the issue, and there are remedies under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and various state privacy laws, but nothing has been done to stop this software from going viral.

Unknown victims of laptop spying won't be protected until the software is either taken off the market, or legislators insist on blatant and clear notification.

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