Several PC companies used computers they rented to clients to spy on people having sex, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Seven different firms secretly took such webcam pictures with software from DesignerWare, which could also track key strokes, locations, and other personal data.
These included e-mail, social media, and financial credentials, Social Security numbers, medical records, private e-mails to doctors, bank, and credit card statements. Spyware was also used to get webcam pictures of couples engaged in sexual activities, partially undressed individuals, and intimate activities at home.
The software was allegedly designed for a â€œkill switchâ€ the PC rental companies could have used to disable a computer if stolen, or if the client didnâ€™t pay as scheduled. DesignerWare also had an add-on program known as â€œDetective Modeâ€ that purportedly helped companies locate rented computers and collect late payments, but also secretly track their location. It also presented a bogus pop-up registration screen that lured users into giving away their personal information.
â€œAn agreement to rent a computer doesnâ€™t give a company license to access consumersâ€™ private emails, bank account information, and medical records, or, even worse, webcam photos of people in the privacy of their own homes,â€ said Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the FTC.Â â€œThe FTC orders today will put an end to their cyber spying.â€
The companies were banned by the FTC from any further spying, activating location-tracking software without peopleâ€™s consent, and collecting and disclosing user information. The Commission will monitor the firms for the next 20 years. The software may have been already installed on more than 420,000 computers worldwide.