When you pay to use a computer, you don't expect it to be tracking your each and every digital move as a result. But that's exactly what happened to Aaron's Sale and Leasing customers — who had their rental computers snooped on in incredible detail.
Ars Technica has a great, detailed feature about the saga, which originally came to light back in 2010 but has developed ever since. The privacy problems are a result of PC Rental Manager — a piece of software that can be used to snoop on customers as they use their computers. Ars Technica explains how it worked:
When activated, this so-called "Detective Mode" operated at various levels. The first siphoned a screenshot and 30 characters worth of key strokes every two minutes for an hour. It then used DesignerWare servers to attach the data to e-mails that were sent to a designated manager...
A second level collected a screenshot and keystrokes every two minutes until a command was issued for the collection to stop. A third level worked the same as Level 2, except that it snapped a picture of whoever happened to be in view of a PC's built-in webcam. It also displayed a fake software registration screen that prompted end users for personal information. Detective Mode had been updated in September, 2011 to make it possible to pinpoint a PC's geographic location by collecting the machine's IP address and the names of nearby wireless networks.
Fortunately, people became suspicious when their web cams were switched on without any input on their part — but, obviously, that was already too late. If it leaves you slightly stunned that an outwardly responsible business was willing to stoop to such lows, you should go read the article on Ars Technica. Taken as a whole, it's a compelling reason to never rent a computer. Ever. [Ars Technica]
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