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Couple says computer rented from Aaron's franchisee spied on them

Suit says company could take webcam photos of them
ATLANTA — A Wyoming couple filed a suit Tuesday claiming that a laptop computer it rented from Aaron's has components that the company can use to collect sensitive information and secretly take webcam photos of customers, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

In a statement, however, the furniture, appliance and electronics rent-to-own merchant denied that any of its corporate stores used the components cited in the lawsuit. It said the computer in question was rented from an independently owned and operated Aaron's franchisee.

"Aaron's respects its customers' privacy and has not authorized any of its corporate stores to install software that can activate a customer's webcam, capture screenshots or track keystrokes," the company said in the statement.

Legal experts said Aaron's would be within its rights to put a "kill-switch" into rented computers to shut them down if a customer failed to pay his or her bill, but the company has to notify consumers, the Journal-Constitution reported.

Brad and Crystal Byrd of Casper, Wyo., said in the lawsuit that a laptop computer they rented contained an alleged cyber-snooping component called PC Rental Agent, the newspaper reported.

The Byrds said they discovered the presence of the component only when the manager of the Aaron's store in Casper came to their home to repossess the laptop, mistakenly believing the couple hadn't paid the bill, and showed them a photo taken by the computer's webcam of the husband using the machine.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Erie, Pa., against Aaron's, franchisee Aspen Way Enterprises and Pennsylvania firm Designerware LLC, which allegedly manufactured the spying component.

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