Recently unsealed court documents revealed that computer retailer Best Buy secretly teamed up with the FBI to perform “warrantless searches of customer computers with zero probability cause or reason to do so,” according to an article in BGR that ran on Friday.
“The documents in question apply to United States of America vs. Mark Rettenmaier, a child pornography case in which the illegal content was discovered by a Best Buy Geek Squad technician who then reported it to the FBI. Both the FBI and Best Buy have repeatedly claimed that they deliberately search customer devices for any type of material, but many of the recently unsealed FBI filings completely contradict those claims,” the report said.
Documents show that there was “close and regular contact” with a Geek Squad supervisor, Justin Meade, and FBI agents.
“Meade was continually providing the FBI with valuable information and a local collection of material that was found on customer computers,” said an FBI memo that also details plans to have agents meet with Meade regularly “to ensure he is reporting” on customers.
To add to this breaking of trust with customers, the company had discussed the development of a software program that would be designed “specifically to root through customer hardware in the search for illegal material.”
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It’s unknown if the program was actually created, but the reports suggested that “some Geek Squad members were performing tasks under the direction and control of the FBI.”
An article in OC Weekly detailed FBI communications regarding Meade, stating that he “continues to provide valuable information on [child pornography] matters” and has “value due to his unique or potential access to FBI priority targets or intelligence responsive to FBI national and/or local collection.”
Records showed that his job at Best Buy’s Geek Squad gave Meade “excellent and frequent access for several years to computers belonging to unwitting Best Buy customers,” and that agents wanted him to do even more snooping on customer devices.
Agency documents from as far back as Feb. 27, 2008, revealed that the FBI was “seeking the training of the Geek Squad Facility technicians designed to help them identify what type of files and/or images would necessitate a call to the FBI.”
After questions arose, Best Buy issued a statement in January, saying, “Best Buy and Geek Squad have no relationship with the FBI.”
During that time, Jeff Haydock, a Best Buy vice president, told OCWeekly that the company has not had any arrangements with the FBI. “If we discover child pornography in the normal course of serving a computer, phone or tablet, we have an obligation to contact law enforcement,” he said, noting that this is “the right thing to do.”
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