Privacy Law

Lawsuit: Aaron's Rental Co. Laptops Can Track Users' Keystrokes and Screenshots, Take Webcam Photos

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Updated: A couple who purchased a laptop computer from an Aaron’s Rental Co. store in Casper, Wyo., has filed a federal lawsuit seeking class action status against the 1,500-outlet North American chain.

It contends that Aaron’s equipped all of the computers it rented, and sometimes sold, to customers with a PC Rental Agent “device and/or software” that allows Aaron’s personnel to take webcam photos of customers and monitor their keystrokes and screenshots as they use the equipment at home, reports the Associated Press.

Filed today in U.S. District Court in Erie, Pa., the suit names as defendants both Aaron’s, which is headquartered in Atlanta, and the company that created the PC Rental Agent device allegedly used by Aaron’s, North East, Pa.-based Designerware. Aaron’s released a statement Tuesday saying the suit against Aaron’s is without merit.

Brian Byrd, 26, and his wife, Crystal, 24, say they found out they were being monitored when a manager of the Casper store came to their home with a photo of Brian Byrd taken by the webcam on their laptop. They had already purchased the laptop from Aaron’s, they say, but the manager erroneously thought they were in arrears, allegedly due to possible theft of their $900 payment, for which they have a receipt, by a store employee and was seeking to repossess it.

“It feels like we were pretty much invaded, like somebody else was in our house,” Brian Byrd told the AP yesterday before the suit was filed. “It’s a weird feeling, I can’t really describe it. I had to sit down for a minute after he showed me that picture.”

In the statement, Aaron’s noted that the plaintiffs “leased the computer at issue from an independently owned and operated franchisee” and that Aaron’s “has not authorized any of its corporate stores to install software that can activate a customer’s webcam, capture screenshots, or track keystrokes.”

Related coverage: “No Criminal Charges in Case Over School District’s Alleged Webcam Spying on Students” “2 Teens Get $185K, Lawyer Gets $425K in School Webcam Spy Case”

Last updated at 8:25 a.m. Wednesday to add the statement from Aaron’s.

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