Several companies providing rented computers were covertly taking photographs of consumers, US authorities said.
The seven companies involved were using software created by US company Designware, which allowed the companies to track personal data and key strokes.
PC Rental Agent, the software, apparently was capturing people involved in “intimate acts” such as sex, the BBCreports.
The companies will be banned from using the software, which had violated users’ privacy, the settlement infers.
Location tracking software, although, can still be used as long as companies involved make it incredibly clear that they intend to do so to customers.
PC Rental Agent is thought to have been installed in 420,000 computers worldwide.
A major concern from the Federal Trade and Commission ruling was a feature in the software, Detective Mode, which would turn on if the user did not make payments or was late to return the equipment.
The feature would cause a pop-up screen on the computer and look like a software registration window. Personal information would be requested such as email addresses and phone numbers, which would allow rental stores to track down the equipment.
The software could also access far more sensitive information such as passwords and usernames for social media sites, email addresses, and financial organizations.
Other data collected included social security numbers and credit card statements.
Webcams attached to some of the cameras had taken photographs of children, individuals who were partially undressed, and more intimate activities, which were compiled during the investigation.
The formal complaint from the FTC said the software caught “couples engaged in sexual activities.”
According to Graham Cluely from a UK-based computer security firm Sophos, who spoke to BBC, said people need to be particularly cautious when renting software:
“Whenever you’re using someone else’s computer, whether it’s borrowed or rented, you can’t always know all of the software on it and what it might be doing. If you are entering an agreement to rent a computer, read the small print, and maybe think twice about doing anything too personal on them.”