Geek Squad has been funneling information to the FBI for nearly a decade

By Greg S · 30 replies
Mar 7, 2018
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  1. Best Buy's Geek Squad is known by many as an easy place to go when you have a computer problem and are at a loss as to how to fix it. What you may not expect is that the person working on your computer might be an FBI informant. Documents released to the Electronic Frontier Foundation show that close ties between Geek Squad and the FBI have existed for years.

    Some evidence suggests that FBI relations with Best Buy date back over 10 years. One such piece of information is an FBI memo regarding a meeting held at one of Geek Squad's repair facilities in Kentucky. Agents were offered tours of the facility prior to the meeting where it was made clear that support would be provided to the Computer Intrusion and Cyber Crime programs.

    There is a document showing that one informant working for Geek Squad was paid $500 to share information found on a computer that was sent in for repair work. This procedure may be common practice to obtain information that could be used against device owners. A number of FBI investigations stem from Geek Squad repairs after phone calls were made to the FBI field office in Louisville, Kentucky.

    Following a report from Geek Squad, FBI agents were allowed to stop by the repair center and review data for any illegal content. If anything questionable was found, agents could then seek a warrant to search the device. Although, it seems that obtaining a warrant is just a formality in the process of seeking prosecution since the contents of computers was largely known.

    As far as it is known from the available documents, Geek Squad employees have never been directly instructed to actively look for potentially illegal content on consumer devices. Action has only been taken when inappropriate images involving minors has been discovered. However, a bounty program of sorts may have strongly encouraged employees to go actively looking for illegal material.

    The whole story of how deeply the FBI and Best Buy are collaborating is still being pieced together as documents are released through the Freedom of Information Act. For now, we know that there is at minimum a friendly relationship that exists in Kentucky but similar agreements may be taking place at other locations.

    The EFF will be seeking to challenge the FBI in court later this spring to reveal what level of cooperation exists between the FBI and other electronics repair facilities.

    Permalink to story.

  2. gusticles41

    gusticles41 TS Guru Posts: 287   +290

    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ If they're only going after pedos I'm okay with this

    Also this was in the news over 2 years ago, I don't see any new groundbreaking info.
    Tanstar, Kibaruk, Lionvibez and 2 others like this.
  3. ZackL04

    ZackL04 TS Maniac Posts: 381   +183

    As they should be
  4. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,986   +2,368

    So Geek Squad is in fact Geek Snitches. They should change their name for clarity.
    Branoli likes this.
  5. TomSEA

    TomSEA TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,903   +1,197

    Kind of a misleading title to the article. Anyone looking at that would think there's a pipe-stream of information to the FBI 24/7. Only happens when something illegal is found on a machine - like the pedophile pics.

    And this isn't anything new for most industries. For example if Costco processes your film or digital media and finds illegal images, they'll notify the authorities too.
  6. Catweazle

    Catweazle TS Enthusiast Posts: 48   +36

    The problem is they weren't just accidentally stumbling onto it. They were intentionally searching through everyone's personal files hoping they could find something illegal so they could make some money being informants.
    Godel likes this.
  7. Teko03

    Teko03 TS Evangelist Posts: 506   +273

    The full truth in the headline wouldn't generate nearly as many clicks....
    dms96960 likes this.
  8. RoosterFish2

    RoosterFish2 TS Booster Posts: 38   +32

    So what your saying is, if I work for Geek squad I can browse people's porn collections at work? Where do I sign up
    killmess and GreyFoxx like this.
  9. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Grand Inquisitor Posts: 5,199   +4,304

    Do you honestly take these people at their word that they are targeting only one group? With all the things that have gone on over the past 10+ years with the FBI and other LE agencies, people are still willing to subscribe to the idea that a program designed to extract private data without a warrant is only going to be used to go after the worst of the worst?

    They should do an ICO.
    Godel and JaredTheDragon like this.
  10. gusticles41

    gusticles41 TS Guru Posts: 287   +290

    My assumption is they have been VERY selective when it comes to choosing which cases to go after. So yes, I believe this method was only leveraged in high-profile situations.

    Like I said, this was in the news quite a while ago and nothing came of it. I'm unsure what new dirt was uncovered for this to resurface, I see nothing that hasn't already been reported. If there's more facts to hear I'm all ears.
  11. Prosercunus

    Prosercunus TS Maniac Posts: 258   +105

    I am not even much of a tinfoil hat wearing individual but I have no confidence that the FBI isn't doing massive data collection when they legally can and likely when they legally cannot.

    That's pure assumption of course.
    JaredTheDragon likes this.
  12. TomSEA

    TomSEA TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,903   +1,197

    I'm guessing you didn't read the article:

    "FBI agents were allowed to stop by the repair center and review data for any illegal content...."

    "Geek Squad employees have never been directly instructed to actively look for potentially illegal content on consumer devices."

    "...showing that ONE informant working for Geek Squad was paid $500 to share information found on a computer...."
    Godel, gusticles41 and JaredTheDragon like this.
  13. JaredTheDragon

    JaredTheDragon TS Guru Posts: 402   +266

    This reminds me a lot of the "Buy More" store in that funny spy-comedy, "Chuck" from a few years back. Minus the CIA/NSA and the Intercept computer in Chuck's mind.

    But yeah, this is just standard policy for almost every tech company. Google is the NSA's baby, Facebook and Apple were spawned straight from Langley outright, and even Microsoft suckles at the teats of the intelligence community.

    There's a reason Intel is called Intel, you know. Not that AMD is any better - just controlled opposition. All of these devices exist to A) siphon money from the plebs and B) spy on us, data-mine us, and monetize us. All benefits from modern tech we might enjoy are completely tertiary to those two factors.
    Mortiferon and Tanstar like this.
  14. seeprime

    seeprime TS Maniac Posts: 230   +203

    I suspect that the FBI also paid some employees to recover deleted files to build a stronger case.
    Godel likes this.
  15. GeforcerFX

    GeforcerFX TS Evangelist Posts: 788   +316

    This was always tough, we were told to respect customer privacy, but also told to report anything illegal, with a major emphasis on cheese pizza we found. I only had to report one customer to the FBi in all the time I worked at staples, and it was because he had the pictures as part of his wallpaper rotation. I never went digging and I never wanted to really, nor was I approached about being paid to share information with anyone. I did have a exwife that came after she found out that here ex husband had brought in his computer for a virus removal and demanded I give her the computer since she bought it and he stole it, that was a interesting day.
    dms96960 likes this.
  16. JaredTheDragon

    JaredTheDragon TS Guru Posts: 402   +266

    This is even more highly suspect, as the FBI shouldn't need rookie-*** "Geek Squad" losers to delve into data at all. These are the same clowns that somehow couldn't "crack" the iPhone of the (fake) San Bernardino "shooter", because you know, calling over to Langley was too difficult to get their Apple keys. It's fake. The FBI only exists as a local branch of the CIA anyway, and all such "news" is misdirection.

    Remember how Hoover died? Yeah, that was "natural causes", and just years later the Church Committee Hearings showed they had already invented and implemented a heart-attack gun. They've been owned by Langley since at least the 1970s.
  17. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 4,164   +2,637

    Just another good reason I fix my own! That plus the much cheaper cost (I work for free - not counting the beer) ....
  18. Lionvibez

    Lionvibez TS Evangelist Posts: 1,388   +556

    I know someone who had a similar job where they had to filter porn can't remember the all the details. Anyways that guy was so grossed out after a week he had to quit said he had nightmares.

    So be careful what you wish for. Not all of that content is gonna be pretty little young things with Double DDs.
  19. Catweazle

    Catweazle TS Enthusiast Posts: 48   +36

    They weren't instructed not to either. You conveniently left out the rest of that paragraph. "However, a bounty program of sorts may have strongly encouraged employees to go actively looking for illegal material." A person would have to be pretty naive to believe that they weren't doing this. We've known for years that computer shops often go through a person's personal files, they've been caught time and again. Throw in a nice bounty from the FBI for finding things to turn in to them, come on. Let's not pretend their employees weren't actively snooping.
  20. Danny101

    Danny101 TS Maniac Posts: 398   +147

    I wouldn't think this would be limited to Geeks Squads only. I wonder if a scan of images and videos is routinely done.
  21. Bubbajim

    Bubbajim TS Evangelist Posts: 426   +379

    Excuse me sir, but you seem to have dropped your tinfoil hat...
    Tanstar likes this.
  22. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 13,783   +3,202

    Forgive my muddled logic, but in another thread, people are feeling sorry for Best Buy because Newegg and stores of its kind, are putting them out of business.

    Now it seems, Connecticut wants to charge untaxed buyers sales tax on past sales from Newegg purchases, so they hate Newegg as well and are boycotting.

    I mean don't get me wrong, this is a free country, and as such, you can hold all opinions at once, or none at all. Although he duplicity and mental stress of doing so, I find rather comical..
  23. Bubbajim

    Bubbajim TS Evangelist Posts: 426   +379

    It appears cognitive dissonance is one of the few things left that isn't reduced to just two positions.
    captaincranky likes this.
  24. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 13,783   +3,202

    Oh I don't know, to me it seems the public at large has been reduced to just one position, bending over holding their ankles. :eek:

    Me, I'm wondering if these come in tinfoil, sort of like a chastity belt:


    I think I'll wear a pair of these over my jeans if I ever, "stoop", to taking my computer to the Geek Squad for repairs.
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2018
  25. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,530   +1,061

    Geez... with what they charge you would think at the very least they would not be doing side businesses :p

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