Have you ever had your computer act up, perhaps freezing or crashing in the middle of important functions? Many people have. And what does one do, when your computer is on the fritz? Simple, you call in the experts. Whether it’s Best Buy’s Geek Squad, or your local equivalent tech gurus, the people you need are the computer doctors who can make sense of that complex code and have your online access back up and running ASAP!
But have you ever wondered, while those computer geeks are rooting around in there to figure out what’s wrong, what else they may be doing? Are they reading your private files? Scrolling through your browser history to see what sites you’ve visited? Or perhaps they’re looking at the videos and pictures you have stored on your device. It may seem improbable, but as it turns out, that’s exactly what was happening with computers taken to the Geek Squad at Best Buy, to be fixed.
Are the Geek Squad techs informants for the FBI?
According to documents made public by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in the wake of a freedom of information lawsuit filed in 2017, certain Best Buy Geek Squad managers are on the FBI payroll. How is that possible, you wonder? Well, the documents show that for at least 10 years, the FBI’s Louisville division has been making payments to Geek Squad managers in the area in return for information about illegal materials found on customers computers.
The specific wording in the documents cite that the connection between Geek Squad management and members of the FBI’s Computer Intrusion and Cyber Crime division was aimed at getting “case initiations.” In other words, when a customer brought their computer in to Best Buy to be repaired, the manager was reporting any illegal materials that techs found to the FBI. But was it something they stumbled across during the course of repairing the device, or where they looking for it?
The difference may not seem like it matters, but it does!
Think about it. If you take your computer in to be repaired and in the course of recovering lost data, the tech happens to stumble on child pornography (or some other illegal materials) it makes sense that they would report it. After all, Best Buy’s policy is that if any of their techs encounter anything illegal on a customer’s computer, they are duty bound to report it. But there is a big difference between “stumbled onto” and “went searching for.”
If paid informants for the FBI were searching the contents of your computer without your knowledge, that could constitute a violation of your constitutional rights, which protect you from unwarranted searches and seizures. So is it illegal for Geek Squad members to rifle through your private files without your consent, looking for signs of illegal activity on behalf of the FBI? The Electronic Frontier Foundation believes it is. The criminal defense attorneys here at The Kronzek Firm say they believe that Best Buy employees were acting as agents of the police. If so, customer’s computers were subject to searches that should be protected by the Fourth Amendment protection against warrantless searches.
Is the FBI conducting illegal searches of people’s computers?
According to the EFF’s interpretation of the information, Geek Squad managers would reach out when they found something questionable, and an agent would come to the site to review what had been discovered. After they had looked through the discovered images or videos, they would determine is the content was enough to proceed into the criminal justice system. If it was, they would seize the device and open an investigation, at which point they would seek a warrant to search the device.
According to the EFF, any search made by the Geek Squad on behalf of the FBI should be viewed by the court as a warrantless search “carried out by Proxy.” And all information discovered during warrantless searches should be thrown out of court because they violate the owner’s Fourth Amendment rights. It will be interesting to see how this lawsuit progresses, and what the outcome is, as it may impact numerous cases in the future here in Michigan and elsewhere!
Have your rights been violated by law enforcement in Michigan?
If you or a loved one have had your rights violated by a police officer in Michigan, whether it was an illegal search or some other form of violation, we can help you! The skilled criminal defense attorneys at The kronzek Firm have spent decades helping people in Michigan defend their rights and protect themselves against false allegations and unfounded charges. We are available 24/7 at 866 766 5245 (1 866 7NoJail) to help you and your loved ones.