EFF: FBI used Best Buy Geek Squad to extract evidence for prosecutions


If you’ve ever taken your desktop computer, tablet or phone to a Best Buy outlet and have had the Geek Squad troubleshoot with you, you may be having second thoughts about their services these days.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has obtained documents under the US Freedom of Information Act and says they claim to establish a strong link between the hiring of Best Buy Geek Squad support staff as informers for the FBI and case prosecutions from uncovered crimes. The advocacy group says that the practice represents a violation of citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights against unwarranted search and seizure of private property.

Multiple memos from the FBI paint the typical procedure to rope in evidence: the agency pays a sum of money — one piece of paper mentions $500 — to an informant working as part of the Geek Squad repair service that Best Buy offers. That employee, based out of Geek Squad’s Kentucky repair center, will go through a repair process with an item and, if they find illegal materials like child pornography, would call the FBI Louisville office for an agent to review the materials. From there, the property would be seized and sent to an FBI branch local to where the owner of the property lives for the agency build a case and, on occasion, obtain search warrants.

Occasionally, Geek Squad informants were referred to as confidential human sources or “CHS.”

There is documentation that a bounty system was set up for Geek Squad employees to encourage rummaging for child porn. Worse yet, it’s possible that forensic software was used by the employees to uncover hard-to-find materials — going against the “plain view” doctrine for third parties looking at customers’ materials. The EFF claims that all this totals to Best Buy acting as a government agent, not just as a private company reporting crime, and, thus, the breakage of the Fourth Amendment.

The foundation is challenging the FBI to unseal documents it has withheld from the FOIA slip and will not say if it maintains relationships with other commercial repair operations. You can read the entire document load at the source link below this story.

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About The Author
Jules Wang
Jules Wang is News Editor for Pocketnow and one of the hosts of the Pocketnow Weekly Podcast. He came onto the team in 2014 as an intern editing and producing videos and the podcast while he was studying journalism at Emerson College. He graduated the year after and entered into his current position at Pocketnow, full-time.