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Court Allows Webcam Spying On Rental Laptops

Soulskill posted about 3 years ago | from the renter-beware dept.

Privacy 240

tekgoblin writes "Back in May there was a class action lawsuit filed against the rental company Aaron's, which had secretly installed spying software that would turn on a laptop's webcam, take pictures and then send them back to the company. Overall it seemed like a large invasion of privacy, which should at least warrant an injunction to stop use of the software until the case is settled, right? Not to the judge, who refused to order an injunction on the grounds that the family was no longer in possession of the laptop. As for everyone else still using their Aaron's laptops, the judge had this to say to them (PDF): 'Moreover, it is purely conjecture that the other members of the putative class will be subjected to remote access of personal information.'"

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240 comments

wow, thats nuts (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36820890)

invasion of privacy. cause you know if they can they will.

Re:wow, thats nuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36821070)

Can't I install Linux on it, or a fresh copy of Windows 7 or such? I'm renting the computer...NOT the OS.

Re:wow, thats nuts (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | about 3 years ago | (#36821216)

I can't find their terms of service, but would be surprised if they don't specify that the system is not to be manipulated or removed until it is paid in full. You could back up the hard drive (or even switch it), but if you own a secondary hard drive and have the technical expertise to do this, you can probably afford a computer outright. Plus, even opening the case might violate their terms.

Unfortunately, they are likely able to enforce quite restrictive terms, as the device remains their property until paid off.

Re:wow, thats nuts (2)

Eivind (15695) | about 3 years ago | (#36821346)

Thing is, it's a lot -cheaper- to own a computer than to rent one, especially since there's a huge surplus of second-hand computers.

If you cannot afford even that, you're better off doing without a computer at all until you've saved up enough. (save the money you'd otherwise pay to rent a computer!)

Re:wow, thats nuts (1)

bjwest (14070) | about 3 years ago | (#36821966)

Thing is, it's a lot -cheaper- to own a computer than to rent one, especially since there's a huge surplus of second-hand computers.

If you cannot afford even that, you're better off doing without a computer at all until you've saved up enough. (save the money you'd otherwise pay to rent a computer!)

Give me a break. People who have no money have no idea how to handle money. They live paycheck to paycheck, spending every penny they have whether they need what they're buying or not. The rent-to-own centers pray on the uneducated/poor with the promise of being able to "purchase" shinny new things with bad or no credit. Hell, recent commercials even highlight the fact you can "stop paying at any time without damaging your credit rating."

These places are just as bad as the "check cashing" centers.

Re:wow, thats nuts (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 3 years ago | (#36822152)

Those places aren't really 'bad' per-se. They just provide a place for stupid people to be stupid. They don't produce stupid people.

Re:wow, thats nuts (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 3 years ago | (#36822444)

Actually, I'm looking heavily into rent-to-own for musical instruments in the future. They're expensive, yes; but I can get a good, $1000 Romanian-made violin for $50/mo, and if i hate the violin I'm out $150. If I hate THAT violin, I switch to another, and then when I find a model I enjoy I tell them to exchange my RTO for a brand new one of that model and apply my rental costs.

The RTO place I'm going to basically rents these instruments, so you get something used by a dozen people before, mostly high school kids in band renting for the school year (a $1200 cello goes for one payment of $329 for September-June, or like $20/mo or something month-by-month); but they'll let you trade up and keep your record as long as you continuously rent the same instrument (a violin, flute, guitar ... no trading across to abandon violin for cello).

So, $200 for crappy instrument that's actively hard to play, or $500 for a decent entry-level, only to find you could have done much better for $1000. That's how it works. You can get a good Yamaha guitar for $200-$300, but the vast majority of sub-$500 guitars are garbage with horrible intonation and no tuning stability, and sometimes they're such cheap wood that they warp under stress in several months. A Cordoba C5 is a great guitar; the C9 is a fucking awesome guitar for $900 instead of $500, and the $1400 models they sell are notably warmer and richer in tone.

Or you spend $20-$50 a month for 2-3 months, decide you don't like the instrument, give back a very nice instrument you spent $60-$150 on, and go about your way.

RTO apartments and LTO cars can make sense, too (yeah, you can own an apartment), if you enjoy driving (thus you're picky about cars) or you're not interested in debt and you're prone to renting (RTO is better than renting if you're not looking to buy). They can also be idiot-bait.

Re:wow, thats nuts (1)

dieth (951868) | about 3 years ago | (#36822634)

You realize that under almost all rent to own contracts only 1% of your rental payments go towards your ownership balance.

Re:wow, thats nuts (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 3 years ago | (#36822712)

Or, you could simply do some research, try out various models on display, find one you like, and then outright buy it instead of wasting money on a rental agreement where only a tiny percentage of your RTO payment will actually apply to your purchase.

Re:wow, thats nuts (1)

larry bagina (561269) | about 3 years ago | (#36822628)

"prey", not "pray"

Re:wow, thats nuts (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 3 years ago | (#36822702)

"People who have no money have no idea how to handle money."

Look at our current economists and Wall Street and say that again with a straight face.

You can't, can you?

Re:wow, thats nuts (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | about 3 years ago | (#36821234)

If you are running Linux, you probably know something about computers, and you probably have a computer related or supported job, hence you are likely not renting to own a laptop for twice the regular price.

Re:wow, thats nuts (2)

gplus (985592) | about 3 years ago | (#36821108)

I've never understood why there isn't a LED that indicates whether the camera is on, on every laptop computer. It's not like there's any shortage of LED's on the average laptop.

Re:wow, thats nuts (1)

vadim_t (324782) | about 3 years ago | (#36821174)

There usually is, but there's usually a way around it.

It may be controllable by software, so the spy app just keeps it off. Or, it might slowly fade in and out, which may give the possibity of enabling the camera, snapping a picture, and turning it off before the user has the chance to notice anything. Even when the light is perfectly visible quite a few people will take it for a glitch if it blinks once in a while.

Re:wow, thats nuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36821226)

Maybe it should be required (by law) that a camera (microphone, ...) has a hard-wired indicator (LED, LCD, whatever) that cannot be controlled via software, but is always on if the camera (...) is on.

Also, it should always be documented whether this (hardwired indicator) is the case or not.

Re:wow, thats nuts (1)

BLKMGK (34057) | about 3 years ago | (#36821638)

Oh goodie a LAW dictating lights on a laptop - just what we need! What a load of crap. I do NOT want another light on my laptop thanks and requiring it via some sort of retarded law is insane. Putting it into documentation simply means it will be yet another thing that won't get seen by most users. How about instead we simply use some common sense and fry the companies that are bugging users like this. There's already been one case where a school was snapping pics of the kids using the computers - complete with your suggested LED - where folks were told the flickering light was a "bug". I do not believe an LED is a solution here, especially one required by law.

Re:wow, thats nuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36821720)

Yeah, or put black tape on the camera. It's not that hard.

Re:wow, thats nuts (0, Flamebait)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 3 years ago | (#36822134)

Oh goodie a LAW dictating lights on a laptop - just what we need! What a load of crap. I do NOT want another light on my laptop thanks and requiring it via some sort of retarded law is insane. Putting it into documentation simply means it will be yet another thing that won't get seen by most users. How about instead we simply use some common sense and fry the companies that are bugging users like this. There's already been one case where a school was snapping pics of the kids using the computers - complete with your suggested LED - where folks were told the flickering light was a "bug". I do not believe an LED is a solution here, especially one required by law.

Oh, shut the fuck up. Why does the sound of your voice give me a headache, you fatuous idiot? "We've got enough LAWS!". Well, if a company thinks it's OK to use rental laptops to spy on customers, there appears to be at least one law that either needs to be written or strengthened. I am so tired of hearing this stupid, "Not another LAW! Oh, that terrible GOVERNMENT" from people who get their political insights from the AM radio.

Re:wow, thats nuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36822618)

Just a note: The people who rented the laptops AGREED to this in the rental contract.

We need the government to stop. Just stop. No more stupid anti-computer acts, be it the PROTECT act, the COICA act, the INDUCE act, or whatever trash. We already have a business hostile president whose economic policies have resulted in permanent unemployment for most of the US, and the only guaranteed jobs go to H-1B holders.

If someone signs a contract of their own free will that Aaron's can monitor them, who is the government to butt in? It is like signing a contract with a rental car that the car company can track the car down if it isn't returned via LoJack.

And we wonder why the Tea Party has such a hold on power -- it is the extreme naiive and stupid liberalism in this country that causes such a backlash making Palin and Bachmann look like ideal political candidates.

"Lets just pass a law" is BS. It just means more hoops for businesses and commoners to deal with.

Re:wow, thats nuts (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 3 years ago | (#36821806)

It may be controllable by software, so the spy app just keeps it off.

Every one I've seen is hardwired (that's kind of the point), and if you turn it on and off as fast as possible it will still stay on for a couple of seconds (I know all this from making a workaround for a Linux power management glitch).

Re:wow, thats nuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36821232)

Then it gets reversed: Once I own a computer, I'd like to be able to control its behavior fully; and that includes activating its periphery without notification.

So... (4, Insightful)

cowboy76Spain (815442) | about 3 years ago | (#36820904)

... it is okay if anyone bugs the judge's house?

Because until you actually record/hear anything, "it is purely conjecture that someone will use the micros to remote access of personal information".

Re:So... (3, Interesting)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | about 3 years ago | (#36820960)

I'm guessing he had rented a laptop and was recorded while fucking various farm animals.

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36821022)

I'm guessing he had rented a laptop and was recorded while fucking various farm animals.

Like his wife?

Re:So... (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 3 years ago | (#36821316)

Like his wife?

Yup. Do you like her too?

Please. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36822324)

The correct term is "gently caressing".

Re:So... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36821140)

Kind of hard to condescend to the putative class when they're holding pitchforks and torches as you swing from the lamppost outside your house.

Easy solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36821468)

A 1cm square of electrical tape placed over the camera should fix the first problem. Squirt a bit of rubber cement into the microphone hole to fix the second problem. Both are easily removed when returning it to Adolf... er, Aaron Rental.

A more apt analogy (1)

elrous0 (869638) | about 3 years ago | (#36822508)

No, my first question was "I wonder if the Judge Susan Baxter would be okay if she learned that her U.S. government IT staff were secretly taking webcam pics of her with her federal-owned laptop." After all, it's not her property right? It belongs to the federal government. So I'm sure she would be totally cool with her IT people taking random webcam footage of her whenever they felt like it.

whats the judge's name (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36820926)

is he a kike

Re:whats the judge's name (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36820952)

we're dling images from his laptop. will let u know shortly.

So, essentially... (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about 3 years ago | (#36820932)

Should I go ahead and uninstall that wiretapping software, there's nothing I'm liable for, am I? I mean, I just removed very obviously malicious software, the rental place should be happy that I did it. They would surely have informed me if they installed something like this deliberately.

Re:So, essentially... (2)

Medevilae (1456015) | about 3 years ago | (#36820956)

"Accidentally" place tape or something over the webcam. After all if you're renting it, as long as you cause no damage to it, it should be fine.

Re:So, essentially... (3, Informative)

robably (1044462) | about 3 years ago | (#36821080)

place tape or something over the webcam

And disable the microphone. People always forget the microphone.

Re:So, essentially... (1)

flappinbooger (574405) | about 3 years ago | (#36821390)

place tape or something over the webcam

And disable the microphone. People always forget the microphone.

I think the law is that you can't record audio in a room unless someone in the room knows it is being recorded. Recording video (such as the webcam) is not "illegal" especially given the legal precedence this judge just created.

Of course, this spyware the rental company was using probably wasn't TOO concerned with the finer nuances of the law... I'm sure there were disclaimers and whatnot - "customer ensures all use of this software is legal, blah blah blah, we're not liable if you use it illegally, blah blah"

Re:So, essentially... (1)

halcyon1234 (834388) | about 3 years ago | (#36822424)

"Accidentally" write a program that will replace the camera's video stream with a constant loop of 2 Girls, with some subliminal flashes of goatse for good measure. Let them monitor that one.

(For additional fun, try to "accidentally" get the program to detect when the monitoring by a human begins, and start to stream some webcam porn instead. For 15 seconds. Then when you know you have their attention-- see above)

Re:So, essentially... (1)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | about 3 years ago | (#36820990)

I wonder how far this will be allowed to go. Can they (the rental company) install key loggers? Can they save your internet history? How long can they keep this information? What happens to this information if the company folds and assets have to be sold off?

Could this be expanded to other rental devices? What about "rent to own" stuff? Leased stuff? Could they bug a car with cameras and mics?

Help! Help! I need a lawyer!

I NEED A LAWYER!

Re:So, essentially... (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 3 years ago | (#36821092)

I NEED A LAWYER!

I would be more than happy to answer to you: "Sorry, pal, the humans got back into their senses and no more lawyers exist".

BUT I CAN'T!

Re:So, essentially... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36821486)

I thought the lawyers went with the B Ark [geoffwilkins.net] ...

Re:So, essentially... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36822308)

If I remember the original article correctly, there is nothing to uninstall. It's a piece of hardware SOLDERED to the motherboard. Removing it would violate your rental agreement.

From the original article: [[http://old.news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110503/ap_on_re_us/us_rental_computer_spyware]]

PC Rental Agent includes components soldered into the computer's motherboard or otherwise physically attached to the PC's electronics, the lawsuit said. It therefore cannot be uninstalled and can only be deactivated using a wand, the suit said.

The couple's attorney, John Robinson, of Casper, said Aaron's officials have told police they install the device on all their rental computers.

Essantially the Judge is right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36820972)

They do not have the laptop anymore so there's no way the injunction could go ahead.
Even though they are no better than the school board who was spying on the students
via the same method. Anywhere else on the planet they would have gone to jail.
Anyways Aaron's is not a place to shop for a computer.Stay away from them.Simple enough.
They are preying on the people that are in bad financial situations.Just avoid them.

ric

Re:Essantially the Judge is right. (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 3 years ago | (#36821024)

They do not have the laptop anymore so there's no way the injunction could go ahead

it's a class action suit. Everyone else in the effected class still has the laptops (unless aarons has an injunction against renting laptops).

Remove the software? Disable the webcam? (3, Informative)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about 3 years ago | (#36820978)

How about "Boycott Aaron's [aarons.com] until they stop including spying software in their rental laptops".

Don't give me "Some people can't afford to boycott them" as there will be other companies who don't do this, and if not there's a business opportunity for someone.

This calls for action (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36820988)

So, when are you Americans going to exercise your Second Amendment rights and just shoot this bastard?

Re:This calls for action (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36821352)

So, when are you Americans going to exercise your Second Amendment rights and just shoot this bastard?

In practice, second amendment rights only apply to Dick Cheney.

Re:This calls for action (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36821616)

Give one of these laptops as a Freebie to Dick Cheney and watch the Magic happend.

Re:This calls for action (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | about 3 years ago | (#36821502)

When they lobotomise themselves enough to think that violence is the correct response to a difference of opinion.

Or, I suppose, when they think that a difference of opinion implies some sort of corruption. In fact, they seem to be coming along nicely on that one...

Re:This calls for action (3, Funny)

The AtomicPunk (450829) | about 3 years ago | (#36821832)

We're in that awkward stage where it's too late to vote them out but too early, to shoot them.

Get rich quick scheme (4, Interesting)

Issarlk (1429361) | about 3 years ago | (#36821014)

1 - give rented laptop to family's teen child 2 - Let her do what teens do in front of webcams 3 - sue company for creation of CP (bonus) - eat popcorn as you watch SWAT teams storming their office. 5 - PROFIT!

Re:Get rich quick scheme (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36821064)

Right! And who's watching the watchers? ...at least dear court, pls save families from pervert control addicted maniacs! A.

Re:Get rich quick scheme (-1, Troll)

dokc (1562391) | about 3 years ago | (#36821380)

Did you think before posting this comment? That what you wrote is just sick. Do you have you own children?

Re:Get rich quick scheme (5, Informative)

Dog-Cow (21281) | about 3 years ago | (#36821496)

Physically, teenagers are adults (biologically able to procreate). Two hundred years ago teenage sex was just something that happened and wasn't talked about. Assuming the teenagers in question weren't already married. There's nothing more disgusting about teenage porn than adult porn, except the very modern idea that children are not adults until some arbitrary law says so.

On a related note: teach responsibility and suggest abstinence. Teaching abstinence and hoping for responsibility doesn't work.

Re:Get rich quick scheme (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36821582)

Or even child sex. Did anybody write in a book that you had to wait til menache before hitting that?

Re:Get rich quick scheme (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36821500)

Yes he does.

Sometimes he has other peoples' as well.

Re:Get rich quick scheme (3, Insightful)

Issarlk (1429361) | about 3 years ago | (#36821604)

I see that your brain cognitive centers have been shutdown by the mention of children and were unable to recognise a joke.
I certainly didn't think it would be possible before posting!

Re:Get rich quick scheme (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36821998)

I used to be a child - does that count?

Re:Get rich quick scheme (3, Funny)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about 3 years ago | (#36822316)

Did you think before posting this comment? That what you wrote is just sick. Do you have you own children?

Sick, indeed. Better to butcher and eat them as babies, anyway.

Re:Get rich quick scheme (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36821766)

You imply her in that. They would get busted for CP even if it was just a 17 year old dude, jerking off on to the laptop...

Re:Get rich quick scheme (1)

TheCarp (96830) | about 3 years ago | (#36821982)

Better. Get your own cam. Make a cheapo amature film. make sure the laptop only ever spends lots of time on and in positions showing raunchy sex and what looks like a murder and cleanup.

Re:Get rich quick scheme (1)

Issarlk (1429361) | about 3 years ago | (#36822610)

So that the "monitoring technicians" at the renting company can fap during their long alone hours of work? What's the point?

A small piece of masking tape over the webcam (2)

Viol8 (599362) | about 3 years ago | (#36821114)

Thats what I always do - perhaps I'm paranoid but it only takes a few seconds and it resolves all of these sorts of issues along with malware checking you out. But then I don't use skype or do webchats , perhaps for someone who did it would be a nuisance but if not I recommend everyone to do it.

Re:A small piece of masking tape over the webcam (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 3 years ago | (#36822198)

Be careful with the maskng tape. Masking tape is designed to be very cheap, because it's only intended purpose is to temporarily mask off areas that you don't want paint to get on. It is not designed to be applied for medium term amounts of time and be removable without leaving a mess that the rental company will charge you for.

I wish people would be more careful with masking tape, it gums up little patches of the world with dried-on adhesive.

Re:A small piece of masking tape over the webcam (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36822212)

This is something that should be taken care of in hardware. A small light next to the webcam, which lights up whenever the webcam is on - implemented in hardware, so that no malicious software can use your webcam without it being obvious to you.

A common theme (2)

toxickitty (1758282) | about 3 years ago | (#36821118)

Oh look people's rights being stomped on again, seems like a common theme these days. I hope goverments don't sit around wondering why their populations are pissed off at them, cause they sure as hell don't have to look far.

Unfortunately the judicial system seems.. (1)

Viol8 (599362) | about 3 years ago | (#36821160)

... to increasingly hold the general public in disdain. I'm not sure where this attitude is coming from , perhaps the law profession is attracting the wrong type of person or the wrong sort is being promoted to the judiciary by like minded misfits of a similar persuation already entrenched there, but its a worrying precedant either way.

Re:Unfortunately the judicial system seems.. (2)

pjabardo (977600) | about 3 years ago | (#36821602)

Actually, if you think about, an independent judicial system is supposed to hold the general public in disdain. That's why it is independent. The problem is that specific parts the the general public is not held in disdain: corporations, Judges appear to be hypnotized by them. I wonder why...

Re:Unfortunately the judicial system seems.. (1)

Viol8 (599362) | about 3 years ago | (#36822334)

"Actually, if you think about, an independent judicial system is supposed to hold the general public in disdain"

Nonsense. A judicial system should be impartial and evidence based, nothing more. There should be no emotional bias one way or the other.

RTFD Read The Fucking Decision (5, Informative)

jklovanc (1603149) | about 3 years ago | (#36821172)

The software is only supposed to be used to find the location of stolen equipment or equipment out of lease so that the equipment can be easily retrieved. The problem was that when the plaintiffs paid cash for the laptop the cash was diverted by a dishonest employee and never got recorded. As far as the manager knew the laptop was out of lease and needed to be retrieved. The plaintiffs failed to make the case that the software was being used on a regular basis to spy on owners or renters of the equipment. There was evidence that the software was being used but the purpose of that use is unclear. Due to that, the injunction was not granted.

The out of context quote 'Moreover, it is purely conjecture that the other members of the putative class will be subjected to remote access of personal information' is salacious at best. Not it says "will be subjected" not "can be subjected". It is not proven that other renters will have their money stolen by an dishonest employee and their laptop considered out of lease.

Re:RTFD Read The Fucking Decision (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | about 3 years ago | (#36821532)

Normal people: "I don't understand why he made that decision I don't like. I should really research it further until I do."
Slashdotters: "I don't understand why he made that decision I don't like. Therefore, he's clearly a corrupt fascist, and should be shot." [slashdot.org]

Actually, to be fair, "Normal people" are not really normal at all.

Re:RTFD Read The Fucking Decision (2)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | about 3 years ago | (#36821578)

Yep, "normal" people probably wouldn't think twice about it. They probably wouldn't do research either.

Re:RTFD Read The Fucking Decision (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 3 years ago | (#36821698)

Depends on what you consider "normal". If "normal" means "sensible and responsible" then yes. If "normal" means "average, typical, according to the statistical norm" then it's probably more like "What decision? Stop bothering me while I'm showing my dick on Chatroulette using this rented laptop I can't afford".
On a side note, does chatroulette still exist?

Re:RTFD Read The Fucking Decision (4, Insightful)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | about 3 years ago | (#36821782)

The pretense under which this software is expected to be used is immaterial. If I'm a landlord I can't install hidden cameras in my apartments just because I spin it with some bullshit pretense that 'I'll only turn them on when they don't pay the rent, honest!'

In the first place, a camera doesn't generally help with retrieval or the exaction of payment (outside of blackmail). It's not like people are going to set up their laptops outside where the camera can see street signs and house numbers. When someone is responsible for a system that spies on private persons in their own domiciles, if that system isn't a prima facie violation of anti-voyeurism laws, they are at a minimum responsible to be transparent about controls in place to prevent abuse, and they must get express consent from those they are 'observing', even in most states where single party recording is legal, since they are not physically present.

I am not a lawyer and the above should not be construed as legal advice.

Re:RTFD Read The Fucking Decision (1)

AngryNick (891056) | about 3 years ago | (#36822676)

Mod parent up. (Oops... too late)
The summary twists the story. I RTFD and think the judge made the only call he could make given the facts presented. I'd call it crappy lawyering before I'd blame the judge.
Now, don't construe this to think I'm ok with rental agent's behavior. As I recall, the business model for these kinds of organizations typically involves preying on the poor and/or ignorant with rent-to-own schemes that resemble something a loan shark might offer. Spycams and keylogging fit nicely within that realm of evil and I have little doubt they are guilty. I'm hopeful that a criminal case proceeds.

be naked , be naked often (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36821188)

always show them your ass too....creepy sickos

Re:be naked , be naked often (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 3 years ago | (#36821330)

always show them your ass too....creepy sickos

is that you goaste?

store front glass is expensive (1)

FudRucker (866063) | about 3 years ago | (#36821208)

i wonder how long this will last when stores all around the country start getting their storefront glass broken with rocks that have messages about spyware on laptops attached to them...

Re:store front glass is expensive (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 3 years ago | (#36822290)

Only after their insurance premiums have gone up, and that will be a while after dozens of brick wielding zealots are in jail.

Headline is completely wrong (5, Informative)

lcrocker (144720) | about 3 years ago | (#36821246)

As usual with coverage of complex legal decisions, the headlines and soundbites don't resemble the decision at all. The case hasn't even begun; the judge did not "allow" the webcams at all. He's just ruling on a preliminary injunction before the case begins: the plaintiff is asking for the judge to issue an order stopping Aaron's from further use of the cameras while the case is going on. The judge is saying here that the injunction is moot because the plaintiff doesn't have the laptop, and hasn't presented any evidence that anyone else is being recorded. The judge is just saying (1) he can't order Aaron's to stop doing something when there's no evidence that they're actually doing it, and (2) the case is weak because the law under which they are suing may not apply (which is true; the plaintiffs ought to be suing under more general privacy torts). Under no stretch of reality does this mean he's "allowing" the use of the webcams.

Re:Headline is completely wrong (1)

jonbryce (703250) | about 3 years ago | (#36821538)

I don't see why lack of evidence that they are actually doing it should be a reason not to have the preliminary injunction. If they are banned from doing something they aren't doing anyway, it doesn't affect them in any way.

Good idea. (1)

darkwing_bmf (178021) | about 3 years ago | (#36821356)

It's basically an anti-theft system. If someone steals Aaron's laptop they'll have a better chance of tracking that person down. I wish my own computer had that feature.

Re:Good idea. (1)

MysteriousPreacher (702266) | about 3 years ago | (#36821580)

You don't need to wish. Install software to do this.

Re:Good idea. (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | about 3 years ago | (#36821600)

I wish my own computer had that feature.

I think I know of a rent-to-own chain that has them available.

Re:Good idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36821722)

.... really? GPS would work better and not be as blatantly invasive.

Re:Good idea. (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | about 3 years ago | (#36821844)

Yes, I'm sure that thieves will conveniently set their stolen property outside where it has full view of street signs and house numbers instead of pointing at a nondescript wall in one of a billion buildings somewhere. The best thing it would do is get a picture of the guy that took the device; however with delinquent renters that point is moot since the rental agency already ostensibly knows what the renters look like and where they are supposed to reside.

The best thing you can do to help recover a stolen computer is to have it report a tracert output to a server somewhere every time it is booted up with a network connection. Then when it falls into the wrong hands you at least have the hostnames and IPs that are near where it's connected, and you can try to get the ISP revealed by that information to help you track down the location. Good luck even with that though.

Re:Good idea. (1)

TheCarp (96830) | about 3 years ago | (#36822028)

Ok so each time its rented, generate a new key, give it to the customer. Laptop encrypts each photo. If laptop is stolen the customer can be asked to turn over the key. If not... no privacy issues, and no covert bs going on.

computer rental spying (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36821370)

If this is the case for rental then the same thing applies to corporate computers which are loaned to the employees to perform work. Not amusement purposes. In fact a lot of company computers are on lease.
Methinks the judge is an idiot

"Prior Art"? (0)

oDDmON oUT (231200) | about 3 years ago | (#36821470)

http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9160878/Federal_judge_orders_Pa._schools_to_stop_laptop_spying [computerworld.com]
So if it's done by a company it's OK, but if it's done by a school, it's not? -.0

Re:"Prior Art"? (1)

Bing Tsher E (943915) | about 3 years ago | (#36822392)

In the case of the school, the spying was being done on a broad spectrum of the general public. In this case, it just victimizes stupid white trash.

That's one of numerous differences that immediately come to mind.

Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36821476)

Don't want to be monitored, don't rent the damned thing.

Re:Simple (2)

Travelsonic (870859) | about 3 years ago | (#36821738)

Or better yet, if there are laws about / against this practice, how about the company... follow them NOT DO THIS IN THE FIRST PLACE?

oh no! think of the kiddies (1)

metalmaster (1005171) | about 3 years ago | (#36821652)

Another user pointed out that this is a pre-trial ruling, but imagine if a ruling like this was passed down to the final verdict. Most all schools like to "lease" their laptops. A ruling with a measure like this attached could harm future cases.

Quick Solution (1, Insightful)

smcdow (114828) | about 3 years ago | (#36821706)

A piece of black tape over the camera.

Re:Quick Solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36822674)

On that note, camera vendors should have a flap that you can pull down over the webcam when it's not in use just like a regular camera does. Not in use/not on the cover should close over the lens, hell even a manual version would work.

If it's "rent to own"... (2)

John Bresnahan (638668) | about 3 years ago | (#36821888)

... then what happens once you own it? Does the rental company somehow remove their spying software? Or do they retain the ability to spy on the person who now owns the computer outright?

Solution? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36821910)

Format C:

I honestly don't see the problem... (0)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | about 3 years ago | (#36822030)

I'm going to get hated on for this, but if you're renting a laptop. it's not yours.
This company has every right to do whatever the hell they want with it.
Don't like it? Tough. Either go buy a laptop, which makes it yours, or find a way to disable the program, which no doubt is against the rental agreement.

It's NOT your computer. You don't own it. (1)

IntenseTech (860852) | about 3 years ago | (#36822236)

Call sysadmin.rant(begin) { So I started reading the comments here and saw pretty much exactly what I expected. Most everyone here, is thinking from their own point of view, which includes owning their own computer – and not from the company's (the actual owner of the computer) point of view. As a sys admin, I see this all the time with employees on a company's computers. Users need to remember that the computer that they are sitting at, while they are being paid hourly to work, is NOT their own computer or personal plaything. This means: going to Facebook, twitter, etc. for personal use, watching porn, downloading random games, or playing online games, etc. is wrong! PERIOD. It's not YOUR computer. It belongs to the the company. In this case, users are bitching about software, no matter what it does, on a computer that is not their own. Deal with it. If you don't like it, don't RENT it. You really should have no say so, because it's NOT YOUR COMPUTER. YOU DON'T OWN IT. Renting does not mean you own it. This is like trying to create a lawsuit because you borrowed a friend's computer (whether you paid for it or not), and you didn't like the software on it. If you don't own it, you don't own it! It's NOT your computer – and you should have no say what is or is not, on the computer. It's NOT yours! A company, corporation, or person, should have every right to protect its assets. };

FEuck! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36822370)

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Quick way to fix this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36822488)

A quick way to fix this is to place the laptop in the kid's bathroom then notify the cops that the local Aarons is running a child porn ring, in order to get permission for the feds to seize the captured data. An examination of the pictures and videos they have "temporarily" stored will bring a whole host of victims to the table.

Re:Quick way to fix this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#36822672)

Exactly. And that would remove a bunch of morons from the gene pool (Bubba can't get you pregnant).
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