Trial Evidence Alleges FBI Used Geek Squad To Find Child Porn

March 13th, 2017 · 1 Comment · 2160p, 4K Flat Panel, 4K LED LCD, Connected TVs, Digital Camera/Camcorder, LCD Flat Panel, LED LCD Flat Panels, News

 

Planning to bring your PC, smart TV or similar Internet connected device to a service center for repair? You might want to make sure you don’t have any photos or documents on there that a service technician could consider illegal.

On the heels of the explosive allegations dump on WikiLeaks last week that the CIA and MI5 might have developed methods of hacking into smart TVs and cell phones to listen to private conversations through device microphones, comes a new report via the website OC Weekly citing “recently unsealed documents” that allegedly show the FBI has relied on Best Buy’s Geek Squad technicians to uncover and turn over potentially illegal photographs (like child pornography) and documents taken from the hard drives and storage components of customers’ devices that are in for repair.

Best Buy vehemently denies the claims.

Read more on the alleged Geek Squad spying charges after the jump:

According to an article posted March 8, 2017 on the OC Weekly web site and written by investigative reporter R. Scott Moxely, the Geek Squad allegedly has been used as informants by certain FBI agents as a means of side-stepping the need to acquire constitutionally mandated court orders or even probable cause before seeking out incriminating evidence such as child pornography.

The article cites evidence that implies some Geek Squad technicians allegedly have taken to this activity so zealously that they have even suggested writing code to better uncover hidden, deleted or long-since wiped and covered-over documents and photo files. The latter could include such devices as a second-hand computer being reconditioned and resold.

Similarly, the article cited evidence given by expert witnesses for both the prosecution and defendants showing that it is very possible for such photos and documents to have been placed there without a PC owner’s knowledge. The article also shows how such suspected illicit material might not even be considered pornographic by the agents submitting it into evidence.

The timing of the OC Weekly article followed filing of summary briefs last week by counsel in the USA vs. Mark Rettenmaier, at Orange County, Calif.’s Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse.  Subsequent briefs are still to be filed by the prosecution in this case, and the judge’s ruling isn’t expected for some time.

Looking for comment on the OC Weekly article, HD Guru contacted Best Buy’s communication department, which quickly returned our query with responses strongly denying any wrong-doing by the consumer electronics retail chain and of having policies that encourage Geek Squad employees to cooperate with FBI surveillance efforts or investigations into Best Buy customers’ private equipment.

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Best Buy’s statement was said to address “the specific allegations (which we firmly deny) made in OC Weekly’s interpretation of the defense summary brief,” said Paula Baldwin with the Best Buy PR team. “To be clear, Best Buy and Geek Squad have no relationship with the FBI and never have.”

Best Buy’s statement said: “We have not been trained by the FBI nor have we ever shared customer lists, conducted surveillance or searched customer computers for them. Our policies prohibit Geek Squad agents from accessing customer content other than what is absolutely necessary to solve the customer’s problem so we can maintain their privacy and keep up with our volume of repairs.”

However, Best Buy did not deny that on rare occasions Geek Squad agents have found and turned over to authorities, evidence of child pornography.

“On occasion, our repair agents inadvertently discover material that may be child pornography. They are not looking for it.  But when it is discovered, we have a legal and moral obligation to turn that material over to law enforcement. We are proud of our policy and share it with our customers before we begin any repair,” Best Buy’s statement said.

By Greg Tarr

 

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