Best Buy’s tech support arm, Geek Squad, appears to have a pretty close relationship with the FBI. According to documents uncovered by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the agency has worked with the company for at least a decade.
This relationship includes meetings for FBI teams hosted by Best Buy, as well as seeming payments for Geek Squad employee informants. The EFF adds that these cozy interactions between the agency and the tech support company may circumvent the Fourth Amendment rights of computer owners.
The EFF writes:
The documents detail a series of FBI investigations in which a Geek Squad employee would call the FBI’s Louisville field office after finding what they believed was child pornography.
The FBI agent would show up, review the images or video and determine whether they believe they are illegal content. After that, they would seize the hard drive or computer and send it to another FBI field office near where the owner of the device lived. Agents at that local FBI office would then investigate further, and in some cases try to obtain a warrant to search the device.
It’s unclear how far this relationship goes. The FBI has thus far refused to give the EFF more information.
I reached out to Best Buy, and the company disputes some of EFF’s insinuations. It says that when its Geek Squad technicians discover child pornography, it has a “a moral and, in more than 20 states, a legal obligation to report these findings to law enforcement.” The company says it clearly states this policy with its users.
Below is the company’s statement in full:
As we said more than a year ago, our Geek Squad repair employees discover what appears to be child pornography on customers’ computers nearly 100 times a year. Our employees do not search for this material; they inadvertently discover it when attempting to confirm we have recovered lost customer data.
We have a moral and, in more than 20 states, a legal obligation to report these findings to law enforcement. We share this policy with our customers in writing before we begin any repair.
As a company, we have not sought or received training from law enforcement in how to search for child pornography. Our policies prohibit employees from doing anything other than what is necessary to solve the customer’s problem. In the wake of these allegations, we have redoubled our efforts to train employees on what to do — and not do — in these circumstances.
We have learned that four employees may have received payment after turning over alleged child pornography to the FBI. Any decision to accept payment was in very poor judgement and inconsistent with our training and policies. Three of these employees are no longer with the company and the fourth has been reprimanded and reassigned.
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