Many people these days have come to accept as a fact of modern life that corporations have, and use, some of our personal information. Our browsing history, our shopping history, etc., all get recorded and sold by companies like Facebook and Google. However, according to a new class action lawsuit, which includes customers from all over the country, one company has crossed the line.
Aaron’s Inc., a furniture rental company, and SEI, the franchise owner of the Aaron’s store in Niagara Falls, as well as other local stores, have allegedly been spying on customers who rent computers from Aaron’s. The rented computers allegedly contain “spyware” that the companies installed in order to spy on their customers.
SEI claims that the software, known as “PC Rental Agent”, was used to give the company the ability to turn off the computers in case a customer failed to pay their bill. According to the class action lawsuit, however, the software enabled the companies to do much more than just that. Allegedly, the software also gave Aaron’s and SEI access to their customers’ personal information, even allowing them to turn on the webcams on the computers and record or take pictures of customers in their homes.
According to the class action lawsuit, the spyware on the rented computers sent more than 185,000 emails to the rental company, including customers’ social security numbers, passwords, and captured keystrokes. The webcams also allegedly took pictures of their customers, including nude children and people having sex, and sent these pictures back to the companies’ corporate computers.
Aaron’s has denied all responsibility for the invasion of privacy, saying that it did not install the spyware and that individual franchises, such as SEI, were responsible for the violations of privacy. Despite this claim, the class action lawsuit alleges that the sensitive information captured by the spyware was sent to computers at Aaron’s corporate headquarters.
The Federal Trade Commission has ordered seven different rental companies, including Aaron’s, to stop putting spyware on customers’ computers. The customers’ express consent is now required before rental companies can install spyware on their computers. Given this, and other recent violations committed by companies, as you’ll find on this blog, it might be a good idea for customers to begin taking a closer look at their Terms of Service and consumer contracts before signing anything.
Jon Leibowitz, the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, has gone on record as saying that, “An agreement to rent a computer doesn’t give a company license to access consumers’ private emails, bank account information, and medical records, or, even worse, webcam photos of people in the privacy of their own homes.”
The law firm for the plaintiffs in the class action lawsuit, Herman, Herman, and Klatz, have warned that Aaron’s may still be spying on their customers through their rented computers. Anyone who suspects that they may have had their privacy violated by Aaron’s “or any of its franchises” should check to see if they fit the qualifications to join the class.
Our Chicago class action attorneys pursue privacy rights claims on behalf of aggrieved consumers. The Chicago class action attorneys at Lubin Austermuehle have decades of experience representing consumers throughout the greater Chicago area and the Mid-West region, including Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa. Class action lawsuits give consumers a way to assert their rights in cases of consumer fraud, even if they lack the resources individually to fight a much larger opponent. Please contact us today online, at (630) 333-0333, or at 630-333-0333 to schedule a confidential consultation with one of our attorneys.