While Best Buy has denied that it has close ties to the FBI, according to the EFF, Geek Squad, Best Buy’s team of IT technicians, their relationship with FBI is much closer than previously realized. The EFF has received results to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) it filed last year and found that Best Buy has enjoyed “a particularly close relationship with the agency” over the past 10 years, at the very least.
One of the documents EFF obtained is a memo from 2008, which details a meeting with the FBI’s Cyber Working Group at the Geek Squad’s repair facility in Kentucky. During the meeting, the company gave the agency a tour of the facility. Additional comments show that the two entities have worked together quite frequently, that they’ve developed a process for reporting suspicious content.
For example, if a repair technician were to find what they believe is child porn on a computer, they would immediately call the feds, and an FBI agent would arrive at the location to inspect the evidence. If the agent does indeed find that it’s child porn, the PC or hard drive would be seized and sent to the nearest FBI office of the device’s owner. From there, agents would dive deeper and secure a search warrant, if needed.
FBI has classified Geek Squad technicians who call in with reports as informants, though some of the documents that are in EFF’s possession suggest that at times, they do more than just reporting. One document shows that the feds paid at least one tech $500, and it’s one of the payments involved in the child pornography case that compelled the EFF to file for a FOIA.
The EFF states because the feds are willing to pay informants, the agency is suggesting that technicians actively look for offending content. The EFF says that the relationship between the FBI and Best Buy “potentially circumvents computer owners” Fourth Amendment rights. As such, the EFF is planning to seek out other documents the feds failed to provide for the FOIA it filed.