FBI paid Best Buy’s Geek Squad to act as informants: report
Newly released FBI documents posted Tuesday by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) – which were acquired via a Freedom of Information lawsuit – show the relationship spans at least 10 years.
The EFF is a digital civil liberties organization.
The documents show that the federal agents paid Geek Squad managers who provided information on illegal activity on clients’ computers.
According to the EFF, the FBI documents show that Geek Squad employees would call the FBI field office in Louisville, Ky., if they came across anything believed to be child pornography.
An FBI agent would then visit the Geek Squad repair facility, review the potential evidence to deem whether or not it was criminal evidence.
The agent would then obtain a search warrant to justify the access.
One Best Buy employee appears to have been paid $500 by the FBI for information which possibly led to the arrest of a Newport Beach doctor in 2014.
Three years earlier, Dr. Mark Rettenmaier had taken his computer to a Best Buy in California to have his hard drive repaired. Hundreds of images were found of what prosecutors described as child pornography.
The charges were dropped against the gynecological oncologist after a judge determined images were discovered in an illegal search.
The EFF says the case shows that some Geek Squad employees may have been financially motivated by FBI agents to search for information.
Best Buy told Global News that four U.S. employees “received payment after turning over alleged child pornography to the FBI.”
“In the event Geek Squad repair employees find what appears to be child pornography on a customer’s computer or device, our policy is that they have an obligation to report it to law enforcement.
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.
We have learned that four U.S. 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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