FBI paid Geek Squad staff to be informants, documents show

The agency’s relationship with staff in the Best Buy repair unit goes back at least a decade, say documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

by Steven Musil, CNET. Published March 6, 2018 5:16 PM PST

Read at CNET

FBI agents paid employees in Best Buy’s Geek Squad unit to act as informants, documents published Tuesday reveal.

Agents paid managers in the retailer’s device repair unit to pass along information about illegal content discovered on customers’ devices, according to documents posted online by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The digital rights group sued the FBI for the documents last year after the bureau denied a Freedom of Information Act request.

The EFF filed the lawsuit to learn the extent to which the agency trains and directs Best Buy Geek Squad employees to conduct warrantless searches of customers’ devices during maintenance. The EFF said it was concerned that use of repair technicians to root out evidence of criminal behavior circumvents people’s constitutional rights.

What the EFF found was that the agency’s relationship with Geek Squad employees goes back at least a decade. An FBI memo from 2008 describes a meeting between Best Buy employees and the agency’s “Cyber Working Group” at the company’s Kentucky repair facility.

The memo describes how Best Buy employees gave agents a tour of the facility and went on to say the bureau’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.”

Another document shows the FBI approved a $500 payment to a “confidential human source” whose name was redacted. The EFF said the payment appears to be one of many connected to the prosecution of Mark Rettenmaier, a Southern California doctor accused of possessing child pornography after he sent in his computer to Best Buy for repairs.

The EFF said the documents detail investigation procedures in which Geek Squad employees would contact the FBI after finding what they believed to be child pornography on a customer’s device.

The EFF said an FBI agent would examine the device to determine whether there was illegal content present, and if so, seize the device and send it to the FBI field office closest to where the customer lived. Agents would then investigate further, and in some cases try to obtain a warrant to search the device.

Best Buy said last year that three of the four employees who may have received payment from the FBI are no longer employed by the company. The fourth was reprimanded and reassigned.

Best Buy didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment but told CNET sister site ZDNet that Geek Squad employees inadvertently discover suspected child pornography on customers’ computers nearly 100 times a year.

“We have a moral and, in more than 20 states, a legal obligation to report these findings to law enforcement,” Best Buy said in a statement. “We share this policy with our customers in writing before we begin any repair.

“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. In the wake of these allegations, we have redoubled our efforts to train employees on what to do — and not do — in these circumstances.”

The FBI declined to comment, saying it doesn’t provide information on its dealings with informants.

Need Help? Call us Today


000-017   000-080   000-089   000-104   000-105   000-106   070-461   100-101   100-105  , 100-105  , 101   101-400   102-400   1V0-601   1Y0-201   1Z0-051   1Z0-060   1Z0-061   1Z0-144   1z0-434   1Z0-803   1Z0-804   1z0-808   200-101   200-120   200-125  , 200-125  , 200-310   200-355   210-060   210-065   210-260   220-801   220-802   220-901   220-902   2V0-620   2V0-621   2V0-621D   300-070   300-075   300-101   300-115   300-135   3002   300-206   300-208   300-209   300-320   350-001   350-018   350-029   350-030   350-050   350-060   350-080   352-001   400-051   400-101   400-201   500-260   640-692   640-911   640-916   642-732   642-999   700-501   70-177   70-178   70-243   70-246   70-270   70-346   70-347   70-410   70-411   70-412   70-413   70-417   70-461   70-462   70-463   70-480   70-483   70-486   70-487   70-488   70-532   70-533   70-534   70-980   74-678   810-403   9A0-385   9L0-012   9L0-066   ADM-201   AWS-SYSOPS   C_TFIN52_66   c2010-652   c2010-657   CAP   CAS-002   CCA-500   CISM   CISSP   CRISC   EX200   EX300   HP0-S42   ICBB   ICGB   ITILFND   JK0-022   JN0-102   JN0-360   LX0-103   LX0-104   M70-101   MB2-704   MB2-707   MB5-705   MB6-703   N10-006   NS0-157   NSE4   OG0-091   OG0-093   PEGACPBA71V1   PMP   PR000041   SSCP   SY0-401   VCP550   352-001   101   102-400   MB2-707   70-178   JN0-102   640-911   ICGB   350-001   70-246   000-089   300-135   9A0-385   1V0-601   70-412   70-347   300-070   000-104   350-060   200-310