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Privacy Electronic Frontier Foundation Government The Courts

FBI Paid Geek Squad Repair Staff As Informants (zdnet.com) 205

According to newly released documents by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, federal agents would pay Geek Squad employees to flag illegal materials on devices sent in by customers for repairs. "The relationship goes back at least ten years, according to documents released as a result of the lawsuit [filed last year]," reports ZDNet. "The agency's Louisville division aim was to maintain a 'close liaison' with Geek Squad management to 'glean case initiations and to support the division's Computer Intrusion and Cyber Crime programs.'" From the report: According to the EFF's analysis of the documents, FBI agents would "show up, review the images or video and determine whether they believe they are illegal content" and seize the device so an additional analysis could be carried out at a local FBI field office. That's when, in some cases, agents would try to obtain a search warrant to justify the access. The EFF's lawsuit was filed in response to a report that a Geek Squad employee was used as an informant by the FBI in the prosecution of child pornography case. The documents show that the FBI would regularly use Geek Squad employees as confidential human sources -- the agency's term for informants -- by taking calls from employees when they found something suspect.
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FBI Paid Geek Squad Repair Staff As Informants

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  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2018 @08:28PM (#56219715) Journal

    Does this mean there is no such thing as "geek squad - client privilege"? I'm pretty sure you can expect to see me drunk on CNN tomorrow, talking about how I'm not going to comply with a grand jury subpoena in this witch hunt. In fact, I'm going to start drinking now so I'm ready. What kind of liquor goes best with antidepressants and chicken wings?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What kind of liquor goes best with antidepressants and chicken wings?

      What kind of wings? Regular wings, or buffalo wings?

      The correct answer, of course, is always Rocket Fuel Malt Liquor, DAMN! but it pays to be specific, you might want Rocket Fuel Malt Liquor with a Lemon Twist, DAMN! for buffalo wings.

    • What kind of liquor goes best with antidepressants and chicken wings?

      Diethyl ether. Pace yourself.

    • by Maritz ( 1829006 )

      Does this mean there is no such thing as "geek squad - client privilege"? I'm pretty sure you can expect to see me drunk on CNN tomorrow, talking about how I'm not going to comply with a grand jury subpoena in this witch hunt. In fact, I'm going to start drinking now so I'm ready. What kind of liquor goes best with antidepressants and chicken wings?

      Thunderbird/Thunderboyd.

    • What kind of liquor goes best with antidepressants and chicken wings?

      Tequila. don't ask how I know!
       

  • by Hallux-F-Sinister ( 5127197 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2018 @08:31PM (#56219729)

    You love to say "I told you so..." ~ Georgia Lass, Dead Like Me

    Yeah, I kinda do, don't I? Anyone taking something like that to someplace like that and assumes their shit isn't being combed through either by someone looking for jackoff material, or worse, something to rat you out to the feds for, is a goddamned fucking moron. (Damn, what is up with my LANGUAGE lately, huh?!? Oh, shit... I have "SAILOR-MODE" set to "enabled".... That explains it. SHIT... I can't fucking disable it! What the fuck! I'm supposed to sing in my church's choir this Sunday! What the fuck am I going to DO?!?!) ^o^

    • by Memnos ( 937795 )

      You can always fucking turn fucking SAILOR-MODE off if you just press the little fucking Angel key on your keyboard, the one with the Angel with the shit-eating grin as its symbol. Christ.

      And thanks for the perceptive observations as well. (Yes, I just pressed the key.)

      • You can always fucking turn fucking SAILOR-MODE off if you just press the little fucking Angel key on your keyboard, the one with the Angel with the shit-eating grin as its symbol. Christ.

        And thanks for the perceptive observations as well. (Yes, I just pressed the key.)

        I'm using an 82-key keyboard; there are no angels on it anywhere, I did a web-search, (I refuse to call it "googling,") to see what key-sequence would get me that, and it turns out it doesn't translate to anything I can reproduce on my keyboard. But I just so love the feel and clicking sound of the original IBM keyboard that I refuse to give it up, so you'll just have to fucking deal with it. I can make THESE though...

        ;-p

        Hope you like. Also, I'm not sure I really want to turn SAILOR-MODE off. The

  • I could have sworn that I read about this at least 5 years ago, maybe more. Isn't this rather old news?

    • I could have sworn that I read about this at least 5 years ago, maybe more. Isn't this rather old news?

      Many people's memory doesn't stretch back for more than 2 weeks. A refresher course in privacy rights and Constitution issues, for them, is never too soon.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        This case relates purely to proper process of law. A computer touched by a Geek Squad member can only produce on thing, tainted evidence and nothing more. Straight up tainted by leaving the persons individual control and now be controlled by someone who for reward and not as a court appointed officer, breaks the law by looking at material they by law are not allowed to and then well, who knows what else they do, they are getting a financial reward, so placing evidence is a reasonable expectation. You do not

    • Agreed. And the previous posting had more information.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      "FBI asks computer shops to help fight cybercrime" (Feb 5, 2004)
      http://the.honoluluadvertiser.... [honoluluadvertiser.com]
      Over the years different news about computer repair shops did show a pattern.
    • by ichthus ( 72442 )

      It was on Slashdot [slashdot.org] a year ago, almost to the day.

  • How is this different from any other information provided by a paid informant? Or are they arguing that all paid informants are illegal? What about unpaid?
    • Re:Paid Informant (Score:4, Insightful)

      by alexo ( 9335 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2018 @08:56PM (#56219831) Journal

      The question is about the methods that information was obtained by.

      If a police officer is not allowed to search your hard drive without at least a probable cause (and possibly a warrant), then they should not be allowed to pay somebody to do it for them.

    • If the FBI paid informants to get access to evidence and did not disclose this to a defendant it is a violation of due process.

      At the very least they created a set of incentives for evidence to be planted and have not disclosed it willingly.

    • Paying an informant for repeating what they overhear is fine, you have no 4th amendment right to expect privacy there. Paying an informant to search your house to look for evidence, seems iffy. If paying the informant makes them an agent of the state as opposed to a private citizen, it violates the 4th amendment.

      To sum up, think of a paid informant as the equivalent of an undercover police officer. They can gather a lot of information, but they also have rules on what they can gather. Or, if that's not t

  • I could see how some detestable people would try to Cathy Newman the argument into, "so you're saying that you want to protect criminals?" There also was no economic motivation to Best Buy for them to protect client privacy from the government. Why would anyone assume that they would act any different?
  • dupe (Score:5, Insightful)

    by swell ( 195815 ) <jabberwock@ p o etic.com> on Tuesday March 06, 2018 @08:40PM (#56219769)

    We did this last year it seems:
    https://yro.slashdot.org/story... [slashdot.org]
    and
    https://yro.slashdot.org/story... [slashdot.org]
    But hey, it's still interesting

  • Way ahead of them (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Tuesday March 06, 2018 @08:44PM (#56219781)
    And that, my friends, is why I've never brought my kitty-porn-laden computers into Geek Squad for service! Well, that, and the fact that they know a lot less about computers than I do!
    • by alexo ( 9335 )

      And that, my friends, is why I've never brought my kitty-porn-laden computers into Geek Squad for service! Well, that, and the fact that they know a lot less about computers than I do!

      Arguably, they know less about computers than your grandma does. Possibly even less than your cat.

      • They don't have to know much about computers to realize if they give their computer to someone who isn't 'a friend' then there is a good chance they could be done tomorrow. Any how it is probably mostly kiddie porn any way so it's a good thing.
    • My son built his first computer when he was 15 years old (young). Then he built the one I use today. A tower of power.
    • The problem here is when you bring your non-kiddy-porn-laden computer in, and the minimum wage tech knows he can double his weekly paycheck if he just happens to stumble upon your definitely-already-existed cache of CP, which the FBI has actively encouraged him to look for in violation of the service agreement (unless you're specifically requesting a service that involves them looking at your pictures).
    • And that, my friends, is why I've never brought my kitty-porn-laden computers into Geek Squad for service! Well, that, and the fact that they know a lot less about computers than I do!

      Please, won't someone think of the kittens?

  • I don't get why people would send their PC to Geeksquad if it had stuff on it that the FBI would be interested in.
    • by green1 ( 322787 )

      Was the material there before, or after it got to Geeksquad? Those guys aren't paid much, and if the FBI wants to top up their paycheque I wouldn't be surprised if the occasional file slipped on to a customer's computer....

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      I don't get why people would send their PC to Geeksquad if it had stuff on it that the FBI would be interested in.

      Maybe you should go out and meet the full breadth of people, like drop-outs who can barely hold a minimum wage job or live on welfare. They probably don't even understand the danger and even if they did they're incapable of fixing the computer themselves and can't afford to throw it away. That is if they even knew they were breaking the law and still remember doing it. You'd be surprised how many have only barely managed to learn some vocational skills while everything else is a blur.

    • never underestimate the stupidity of people. I work with security teams at various organisations and on a daily basis they are pulling people up on security breaches for browsing porn or other material at work and regularly some are referred to police. Yet despite the education, the warnings, the contract they sign, hell the bloody login screen explicitly tells them everything is monitored and logged they continue to get caught. Some people are beyond help.
  • If you have stuff on your computer you don't want to share with the repair guys, then encrypt it or delete it, because there is nothing else going to stop them from seeing it.

    One of my university buddies worked at a repair job; not Geek Squad, but the local mega-computer-store equivalent. He worked a lot of nights and weekends and often had the repair shop to himself. Any time a machine came in for repair he would run a boot CD with a script to hoover up any and all .jpg and video files and copy th

    • One of my university buddies worked at a repair job

      Yeah, right. It was you, wasn't it, you sick bastard?

      • I wish. My summer jobs involved things like sliding sheets of plywood into a dryer. One every 7 seconds, for 8 hours a day. (Not saying I ain't a sick bastard, every now and then).

    • Your friend should be charged with computer crimes, preferably one per picture and rot in a cell for a very very long time. This is a gross abuse of trust, which is why I blame the techs for this incident, not the FBI... it's no secret the FBI will 'work with' criminals to catch other criminals. So I don't really blame them, they just saw some low hanging fruit and pounced. The techs who root around customers computers are the dirty ones who make us all look bad and untruthworthy.

      We need HIPAA laws regar

  • If you have a computer, that you take in for repair that has ILLEGAL CONTENT...then you DESERVE to be caught dumbass!
  • They want their headline back.

    yeah, I know: "but it's important and bears repeating herp derp"

    Fuck off; it's outrage porn. The same FBI that you're hating on with this headline you defend as a pillar of democracy when Trump shits on them. We're literally living in 1984. The only actual solution is to de-fund them and you're constitutionally incapable is even considering such blasphemy, so just live in it; you have the government you deserve.

    • The same FBI that you're hating on with this headline you defend as a pillar of democracy when Trump shits on them.

      Me personally? I don't blame the FBI, they're just doing their job. I blame the technicians. They're the one who's BREAKING laws by searching people's computers without any due process of law, or respect for privacy. Go after them. And go after them hard, they're the one who'll be hurt the most by litigation. FBI will just shrug, and this behavior will continue. I swear, you lock up a couple technicians and make a lot of noise about it happening, no technician will ever do this again, for any amount

  • As the title infers, this is a gross display of greed and violation of trust a computer repair technician should have with their clients.

    This is that happens when you industrialize computer repair. Not a good idea. And SHAME on any technician who sells dirt on customers to the FBI. You should disbarred from computer repair. I do some repair work myself and privacy is a huge thing to me. Believe it or not, I do not root around people computers looking for dirty pictures or anything else for that matter.

    • by imidan ( 559239 )

      Even in the case of activities covered under HIPAA, doctors and other medical people have a duty to report suspicions about things like sexual abuse. I don't have a big problem with Geek Squad turning in pedos if they happen to find kiddie porn.

      However, I did computer repair work for many years, and I have never systematically searched a client's computer for porn or whatever. I have found it inadvertently--for example, one guy had a virus delete everything on his hard disk, and as I was going through and r

  • Am I the only one who finds this story several orders of magnitude creepier than yesterday's revelation that some ad-supported movie ticket app tracks the user's trip to and from the theater?

  • Fuck the FBI and Fuck Best Buy
  • This was well known about 10 years ago when Best Buy admitted as much right after a few high profile child porn arrests that stemmed from it.

    Pretty much every IT professional will report you if you send them a computer to work on that's filled with child porn or snuff porn.

  • This is old news

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