In 2017 it was revealed that a Best Buy Geek Squad employee was an informant for the FBI. The employee was giving out information gleaned from working on customer computers. As a new report from Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reveals, that isn’t the only relationship the FBI held with Geek Squad.
The EFF files a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in 2017 in order to learn more about the relationship between the FBI and the Geek Squad. The relationship likely breaks fourth amendment rights of computer owners. Once documents were revealed, the EFF learned even more:
The documents released to EFF show that Best Buy officials have enjoyed a particularly close relationship with the agency for at least 10 years. For example, an FBI memo from September 2008 details how Best Buy hosted a meeting of the agency’s “Cyber Working Group” at the company’s Kentucky repair facility.
The memo and a related email show that Geek Squad employees also gave FBI officials a tour of the facility before their meeting and makes clear that the law enforcement agency’s Louisville Division “has maintained close liaison with the Geek Squad’s management in an effort to glean case initiations and to support the division’s Computer Intrusion and Cyber Crime programs.”
Another document records a $500 payment from the FBI to a confidential Geek Squad informant. This appears to be one of the same payments at issue in the prosecution of Mark Rettenmaier, the California doctor who was charged with possession of child pornography after Best Buy sent his computer to the Kentucky Geek Squad repair facility.
Additional documents revealed even more information being passed from the Geek Squad to the FBI throughout years of cooperation. The document reveals details about the FBI’s full process for investigating suspects using devices sent to the Geek Squad for repair.
The reports indicate that the FBI considers the employees informants. Some documents suggest that Geek Squad employees only contacted the FBI when illegal material was found on devices. Others suggest these employees were making an effort to seek out the illegal material. An important distinction.
Many documents are still sealed. The EFF plans to continue its suit and seeks to have these documents made public.