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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.