FBI Has Been Paying Geek Squad To Spy On Customers For Over A Decade

For over a decade, the FBI had been paying employees of Best Buy's Geek Squad to pass on information about illegal materials on customer devices sent in for repair, according to records obtained through the Freedom of Information lawsuit filed last year

At no point did the FBI get warrants based on probable cause before Geek Squad informants conducted these searches. Nor are these cases the result of Best Buy employees happening across potential illegal content on a device and alerting authorities. -EFF.org

Records posted Tuesday by the Electronic Frontier Foundation reveal that federal agents from the FBI's Louisville division had been paying Geek Squad informants for information that might kick off investigations related to their "Computer Intrusion and Cyber Crime" program, according to the documents. 

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.

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.” -EFF


Another document details a $500 payment from the FBI to a Geek Squad informant, which appears to be directly related to the FBI's prosecution of California doctor Mark Rettenmaier, who was charged with possession of child pornography after Best Buy sent his computer to a repair facility in Kentucky. 

After several years of coordinating efforts, the FBI developed a process for following up on Geek Squad leads. After an employee had identified material thought to be illegal, the FBI would show up, review the suspected content, seize the computer or hard drive, and send it to another FBI field office close to where the owner of the device lived. From that point, field agents would then investigate further, and in some cases, attempt to obtain a warrant to search the device (after the device had been searched). 

Some of these reports indicate that the FBI treated Geek Squad employees as informants, identifying them as “CHS,” which is shorthand for confidential human sources. In other cases, the FBI identifies the initial calls as coming from Best Buy employees, raising questions as to whether certain employees had different relationships with the FBI.

In the case of the investigation into Rettenmaier’s computers, the documents released to EFF do not appear to have been made public in that prosecution. These raise additional questions about the level of cooperation between the company and law enforcement. -EFF

After CBS Security editor Zack Whittaker contacted Best Buy, they offered this lengthy reply:

"As we said more than a year ago, our Geek Squad repair employees discover what appears to be child pornography on customers' computers nearly 100 times a year. Our employees do not search for this material; they inadvertently discover it when attempting to confirm we have recovered lost customer data.

We have a moral and, in more than 20 states, a legal obligation to report these findings to law enforcement. 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.

We have learned that four 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."



tmosley Déjà view Thu, 03/08/2018 - 07:52 Permalink

This created a perverse incentive for Geek Squad members to plant files on their clients (vicitim's) computers so they could get paid $500.

Every one of those convictions should be thrown out and the people released, with all the info stricken from their records and have a big fat lawsuit against the FBI, the Geek Squad, Best Buy, and the individual technicians who went along with this nonsense.

In reply to by Déjà view

FreddieX IntercoursetheEU Thu, 03/08/2018 - 08:16 Permalink



As Andrew Fleischman points out at Fault Lines, the government's spin on the paid "private search" issue -- that it's "wild speculation" the Best Buy employee was acting as a paid informant when he discovered the child porn -- doesn't hold up if the situation is reversed. AUSA Anthony Brown's defensive statement is nothing more than the noise of a double standard being erected.

Flipping the script for a minute, would an AUSA say it was “wild speculation” that a man was a drug dealer when phone records showed he regularly contacted a distributor, he was listed as a drug dealer in a special book of drug dealers, and he had received $500.00 for drugs? Sorry to break it to you, Mr. Brown, but once you start getting paid for something, it’s tough to argue you’re just doing it for the love of the game.

In addition to these problems, the file discovered by the Best Buy tech was in unallocated space… something that points to almost nothing, legally-speaking.

[I]n Rettenmaier's case, the alleged "Jenny" image was found on unallocated "trash" space, meaning it could only be retrieved by "carving" with costly, highly sophisticated forensics tools. In other words, it's arguable a computer's owner wouldn't know of its existence. (For example, malware can secretly implant files.) Worse for the FBI, a federal appellate court unequivocally declared in February 2011 (USA v. Andrew Flyer) that pictures found on unallocated space did not constitute knowing possession because it is impossible to determine when, why or who downloaded them.

This important detail was apparently glossed over in the FBI's warrant application to search Rettenmaier's home and personal devices.

In hopes of overcoming this obstacle, they performed a sleight-of-hand maneuver, according to Riddet. The agents simply didn't alert Judge Marc Goldman that the image in question had been buried in unallocated space and, thus, secured deceitful authorization for a February 2012 raid on Rettenmaier's Laguna Niguel residence.




Since 2009, "the FBI was dealing with a paid agent inside the Geek Squad who was used for the specific purpose of searching clients' computers for child pornography and other contraband or evidence of crimes," defense attorney James Riddet claimed in a court filing last month.




A federal judge in California has tossed pictures collected in a search of a physician’s home that was conducted after Best Buy’s Geek Squad discovered an image of a nude child on the doctor’s computer.

In reply to by IntercoursetheEU

Mr. Bones Theosebes Goodfellow Thu, 03/08/2018 - 10:19 Permalink

When I was in the commercial support business, one client brought me in for a 'virus.' it was scare-ware from a porn site. I sold him antivirus and suggested he use a decent ad blocker. He ignored that advice.

Also, his taste in fap fuel was entirely predictable given his business. I didn't go looking, the page automatically launched when I logged in to his PC.

Our policy was always to involve law enforcement if there was suspected illegal content. We never encountered it (or were under an NDA). However, almost all of the techs had found pronz at one time or another.

In reply to by Theosebes Goodfellow

bunnyswanson Theosebes Goodfellow Thu, 03/08/2018 - 16:51 Permalink

Who said it was about porn and selling stolen goods on Ebay?  I'd say it was "You are either WITH us or AGAINST us" and if you haven't been targeted in YOUR town, you are not a truth-seeking individual who is appalled at the collapse of modern civilization at the hands of the JEWS who through a wrench into the works, whether it be our food, our medicine, healthcare, education, sports, EVERYTHING.  Get the fucking JEWS out of the business because despite the handful of good Jews, the bad Jews will die for the cause of destroying the goyim.  It is beat into their brains from birth.  They are walking personality disorders and will NEVER change.  They are now all the lawyers.  Try finding a fucking lawyer without being a part of their club.  It is fucking impossible.  They are teachers, the veterinarians, doctors.  I'm a case study for a medical science textbook but in the last 7 years, I have avoided a doctor's office like the plague...despite breast cancer.  It's pretty GD clear to me.  They want us dead and GONE and they want our wealth, our legacy.  Deal with it.  It is what it is.  They destroyed the peso, took Mexico from a thriving country and turned it into a meth lab.  One country's economic fall is another's economic boom.  They have placed civilization into a shell game and our children are at their mercy.

In reply to by Theosebes Goodfellow

PrivetHedge FreddieX Thu, 03/08/2018 - 09:11 Permalink

It's pretty easy to put stuff in unallocated space on a PC if you want to frame anyone:

You literally copy the files over, and then delete them. Job done, QED.
No special programs required, it's a basic two-step process: Copy, delete.

You can also get them from simply visiting a website, a whole bunch of pictures marked as 'invisible' or places in invisible divs then get downloaded into your browser cache and when deleted they'll live in that unallocated space from then on - until something else uses that space and overwrites it.

In reply to by FreddieX

hannah FreddieX Thu, 03/08/2018 - 11:21 Permalink

wanna bet that the fbi/cia hacking software automaticly placeschild porn in unallocated space as a matter of course. the only 'crime' the usa gov ever claims against anyone it seems is child porn. they picked the crime that is the worst crime and then brand every suspect as a child porner. putin liked hookers and next he liked kiddies.

In reply to by FreddieX

SoDamnMad Anunnaki Thu, 03/08/2018 - 08:43 Permalink

Forget about Democrats fixing this voter fraud.  Verifiable paper ballots with ID and proof of citizenship would be RACIST, therefore we will never get them as long as Democrats have any power.  Never mind that Guyana requires ID + proof of citizenship + an address check.  Guyanans can't be racist  because they aren't white.

In reply to by Anunnaki

PT Gert_B_Frobe Thu, 03/08/2018 - 08:27 Permalink

The moral to the story is to never try to get someone else to fix a hard drive that holds incriminating stuff on it.  What?  You expect them to ignore anything untoward that they find on there?  Oh, and don't haggle over the price.

Errrrr, but how do we know that Geek Squad themselves did not plant incriminating evidence?  At the end of the day, it's all just ones and zeroes.  And your word against theirs'.

Oh yeah, and make sure the Geek guy's political views align with your own ...

Gee, this gets complicated really quickly ...


In reply to by Gert_B_Frobe