Ruling awaited in Erie cyber-spying lawsuit
By LISA THOMPSON, Erie Times-News
"PC Rental Agent software captured the keystrokes and screen image of the online poker game that Brian Byrd played on his laptop computer as he sat on his living-room couch in Casper, Wyo. It even used his webcam to photograph him secretly,
said his wife, Crystal Byrd.
In stores in the Spokane, Wash., area, a witness testified, PC Rental Agent's "detective mode" secretly captured screen shots of franchisee-owned Aaron's rental-store customers checking their bank and Macy's accounts, and a photo of a woman smoking pot.
The software in question performs many tasks. In detective mode, it first retrieves a user's keystroke and screen shots every two minutes for an hour and e-mails that information to the rental store that leased or sold the computer. At the next level, it continues that kind of monitoring for as long as the store personnel want. At the third level, it snaps a webcam photo of the person as he or she signs on to prompting messages that request personal information.
However, Kelly also said the software has been sold to 500 franchisee-owned stores. The number of computers subjected to the detective software in the past or the number of computers on which the capability to activate the detective mode still exists, he could not say. The company keeps records in six-month intervals, he said."
....(more at link)
This is disturbing.
First the Lower Merion School District was caught snapping screenshots and taking actual photos of students in their homes, and now Aaron's computer rental franchises apparently have also been taking photos, logging keystrokes, and capturing screenshots from renters. Both the Lower Merion School District and Aaron's obtained their spying software from private vendors who informed them that the spying was completely legal. Another article indicates that Aaron's was told by the vendor that it was their choice whether or not even to inform renters that the spying software was on the computers. Who knows how many businesses and schools may be using these? Who knows how many cameras may be out there spying on people?
The customers in the article have filed a class action lawsuit. A major problem appears to be that old federal wiretapping laws have not been updated to cover webcam spying. Defense lawyers are arguing that the spying is perfectly legal...