Last year, the prosecution of Mark Rettenmaier, a doctor who brought his computer to Geek Squad for repairs where it was determined that his device contained thousands of images depicting child abuse, revealed that the FBI had Geek Squad employees acting as informants. However, new information shows that the connections go much deeper than originally thought.
Court documents relating to Rettenmaier’s prosecution revealed “eight FBI informants at Geek Squad City,” according to a report by Gizmodo. It was also shown that some workers received payments between $500 and $1,000 for relaying information to the FBI.
However, it appears that this wasn’t the only instance where Geek Squad employees assisted the FBI.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation recently obtained documents showing that Best Buy has, at certain times, maintained a relationship with the FBI, including acting as hosts for a meeting with the agency’s Cyber Crimes Working Group at their repair facility in Kentucky.
Mainly, the arrangement between the FBI and Geek Squad focused on the employees informing the agency when items like child pornography were discovered on a customer’s device.
While Geek Squad’s willingness to report such findings seems beneficial on the surface, it raises larger questions regarding the Fourth Amendment. Customers do authorize Best Buy to search their devices when the company is assisting with technical issues, but the association with the FBI suggests Geek Squad is functioning as an arm of the bureau by performing searches that would traditionally require a warrant.
Additional concerns could be raised in regards to the payments some Geek Squad employees have received, as some may interpret these exchanges as incentives to conduct searches that aren’t required to troubleshoot the device or complete the needed repairs.
In January 2017, Jeff Shelman, a spokesperson for Best Buy, asserted that the company, including Geek Squad, has “no relationship with the FBI,” but did state that “from time to time” the employees performing repairs would “discover material that may be child pornography and we have a legal and moral obligation to turn that material over to law enforcement.”
Shelman added, “Any circumstances in which an employee received payment from the FBI is the result of extremely poor individual judgment, is not something we tolerate and is certainly not a part of our normal business behavior.”