When Gadget Fixers Turn FBI Informants


This is disturbing.

A court case in California has revealed that technicians from Best Buy’s repair shop, Geek Squad, have served as paid informants for the FBI. Details from the hearing reveal that its staff identified incriminating evidence in the form of child pornography on customer computers.

Setting aside the nature of the crime, I don’t see how taking an appliance in to get it repaired is an implied waiver of your 4th amendment rights.



Same reason taking film in to be developed can get you arrested or at least investigated,
or your garbage can is not private once you put on the curb for pickup.


If you take a car in for repairs and you leave a body in the trunk, you don’t expect the mechanic will involve law enforcement?

This is a non-story.


Wasn’t your 4th amendment meant to protect from a police state. ‘a general search warrant’

Has it been officially deprecated? “declare something obsolescent; recommend against a function, technique, command, etc, that still works but has been replaced and may not work*in future”

Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

That amendment seems pretty decent.


If you invited someone into your home and they saw child porn there, they would be within their rights to notify authorities. In the same manner, you invite someone into your computer and they are within their rights to notify law enforcement if they see something illegal.


People excusing this are ignoring the fact the FBI is paying these repairmen. Once they do the repairmen become in some sense agents of the state. This is why this is unconstitutional.

On a side not this is why you need to encrypt all of your personal data if you can. The government has spies everywhere. And when the state pays for info there is an incentive to frame people.


I didn’t miss it, I just assumed it was a regular practice to monetarily reward tipsters that lead to sucessful prosecution.


Law enforcement has successfully swayed public opinion in this regard over the past 20 or so years, at one time, it was the norm to just keep quiet, nowadays though, snitching is not nearly as taboo as it once was.

We really are living in a police state, but surprisingly, most people seem totally fine with this?!! I cannot remember another time when so many people are ready to call police over anything and everything they see!!


It’s not a 4A violation because you sign a form agreeing to allow those technicians access your personal data when you send your device to them. What they do with it after that is impossible to say, but reporting to the FBI if they find something criminal is reasonable and constitutional.

If you value privacy, encrypt your sensitive files before sending the device in. Or you can remove the hard drive, depending on the nature of the problem.


This is a really good thing! It shows that police community relations are improving. It has been a problem in the past, and to some extent it still is a problem, to get communities to cooperate with police. This is why, for example, drug dealers operate with such impunity in a community who knows very well who the bad guys are. It is also why it is difficult to get informants to report on terrorist radicalization within the community. If you insist that police operate only on what information they can personally gather, you cut off the legs of law enforcement.


I do not think most people who knowingly keep this kind of thing on their computer would take it to a Best Buy or similar shop to have it repaired though, I mean, that would be like a guy who just shoved a dead body in his trunk, taking his car in for detailing!

I have a feeling most people that get reported like this, are probably unaware these things are even on their computer, they may have bought a computer off craigslist or flea market and have no idea what the previous owner had on there or are not computer savy enough to find/open these files.


It is a regular practice to purchase testimony. It is the sad state of our justice system and society.

:thumbsup: The ironic thing for me is how much we talk about violence not being acceptable and yet for most people the slightest offense is grounds for calling guys whose only tool is force including deadly force.


If you include paid informants, I have to disagree. How many paid informants does a healthy society need? I think the right answer would be zero.

Should paid informants be on a retainer or be doing piece-work and does the bounty paid depend on quality or quantity or turning a blind eye to their criminal activity?

The FBI has ~15,000 and the DEA has over 18,000 of them. There may be some overlap and a bit of double dipping but it’s all for national security so it’s OK? And if you throw in the paid informants from other agencies and other police forces it becomes scary. Who’s spying on whom?

Anyways, the 4th amendment is worthy of protection. Once it’s been disappeared then its gone forever.


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