FTC Settles with Companies for Spying on Rental Computers

By John Wagley

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has come to an agreement with seven computer rental companies and a computer software company for allegedly spying on rental customers. The settlement aims to prevent the companies, who are accused of activities including capturing screen shots, logging keystrokes, and taking Web cam pictures, from any similar future spying activities.

The software, made by the company DesignerWare, was marketed as a way for companies to locate people who made late payments, according to the FTC. The software could remotely disable a computer, but also included an add-on program known as “Detective Mode,” which contained a location-tracking program and could capture and collect user’s activities and information.

Detective Mode revealed information on users including user names and passwords for e-mail accounts, social media Websites, and financial institutions; Social Security numbers; medical records; private e-mails to doctors; banks and credit card statements; and Web cam pictures of children, partially undressed individuals, and intimate activities at home, according to the FTC.

The settlements bar the companies from any further illegal spying, from deceptively collecting information from consumers, and from using location-tracking software without computer users’ knowledge.

photo by Sean MacEntee/flickr


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