When computers fall into disrepair, Best Buy’s “Geek Squad” is usually the go to. However, a damning new report revealing close ties between the popular tech repair service and the FBI has some consumers giving it the side eye.
Documents released to the Electronic Frontier Foundation on Wednesday suggest the FBI has been working with Best Buy for nearly a decade, according to Mashable. The memos, obtained via a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, showed federal authorities paid Geek Squad workers to act as their informants and report potentially illegal content discovered on customer computers.
While employees weren’t instructed to conduct these searches themselves, the documents showed that workers received cash rewards for finding things like child porn on customer’s devices. In one case, it appeared one worker might have proactively searched a device for questionable content, rather than just reporting what he/she happened to find. Another worker reportedly received $500 to share info found on a computer that was brought in for repair.
Federal agents were reportedly offered tours of a Geek Squad facility in Louisville, Kent. where it was decided the company would provide info to the agency’s Computer Intrusion and Cyber Crime programs, according to another memo. Following a report from the Geek Squad, FBI agents were allowed to come to the repair center and search for illegal content. Authorities could then seek a warrant to search the device if anything suspicious was found.
The extent of the FBI and Geek Squad’s relationship remains unclear, but the EFF will seek to challenge the agency in court this spring to see how deeply the two entities are involved.