Madigan reaches agreement over alleged computer-spying

Bryan Cohen Sep. 26, 2012, 12:52pm


CHICAGO (Legal Newsline) - Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced an agreement on Tuesday between her office, the Federal Trade Commission and an Illinois company that allegedly used computer software to spy on consumers who rented laptops.

The Lake Bluff-based Watershed Development Corporation, a franchisee of Aaron's Inc., operates stores throughout northwest Illinois that offer rent-to-own furniture and electronics, including laptop computers. The company allegedly used a special software program to spy on customers who leased laptops from the stores.

"There is no justification for spying on customers," Madigan said. "These tactics are offensive invasions of personal privacy."

Watershed allegedly used software called PC Rental Agent that allowed the company to remotely lockdown a computer, record keystrokes and screenshots containing personal consumer information and track the location of the computer user. The company allegedly used the spyware as a tool for debt collection to locate consumers who fell behind with as little as one payment on their lease agreement.

Under the terms of the assurance of voluntary compliance filed in conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission, Watershed is prohibited from monitoring the computer use of customers and may only track the location of a computer when it is reported stolen and with prior user consent.

Watershed has locations in Sterling, McHenry, Freeport, DeKalb, Crystal Lake and Belvidere.

The FTC also settled with six other stores that allegedly used similar software to spy on customers.

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