Best Buy’s Geek Squad tech support service has been accused of having a “close relationship” with the FBI, allegedly taking money in return for information and evidence of customers’ criminal activity, according to a report.
In an article titled, “Geek Squad’s Relationship with FBI Is Cozier Than We Thought,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) claimed Best Buy’s customer tech support teams have had a close relationship with the government agency for years.
Geek Squad, a subsidiary of Best Buy which repairs electronic devices and provides tech support to customers, has been accused by the EFF of taking money from the FBI in return for information and evidence of illegal content and activity found on devices which are sent in for repair.
“After the prosecution of a California doctor revealed the FBI’s ties to a Best Buy Geek Squad computer repair facility in Kentucky, new documents released to EFF show that the relationship goes back years. The records also confirm that the FBI has paid Geek Squad employees as informants,” the EFF declared. “EFF filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit last year to learn more about how the FBI uses Geek Squad employees to flag illegal material when people pay Best Buy to repair their computers. The relationship potentially circumvents computer owners’ Fourth Amendment rights.”
“The documents released to EFF show that Best Buy officials have enjoyed a particularly close relationship with the agency for at least 10 years. For example, an FBI memo from September 2008 details how Best Buy hosted a meeting of the agency’s ‘Cyber Working Group’ at the company’s Kentucky repair facility,” they continued, adding, “The memo and a related email show that Geek Squad employees also gave FBI officials a tour of the facility before their meeting and makes clear that the law enforcement agency’s Louisville Division ‘has maintained close liaison with the Geek Squad’s management in an effort to glean case initiations and to support the division’s Computer Intrusion and Cyber Crime programs.'”
A document obtained by the EFF also showed a $500 payment to a Geek Squad employee from the FBI, which the EFF linked to a case of a man who was charged with possession of child pornography after sending his computer to be repaired by Geek Squad.
“Other documents show that over the years of working with Geek Squad employees, FBI agents developed a process for investigating and prosecuting people who sent their devices to the Geek Squad for repairs,” the EFF’s article claimed. “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.”
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published two documents, amounting to over 150 pages, which they claim shows collusion between Geek Squad and the FBI, and are available to view on their website.