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FBI Used Best Buy's Geek Squad for Child Porn Informants

You can find 'geeks' somewhere between 'cool' and 'sketchy.'

Like members of the Geek Squad are cool because they can fix computers. But they can also be sketchy because some have been paid to turn over child pornography they find on computers to federal authorities.

According to newly released records from the FBI, Best Buy's geeks have been working with the agency for a decade.

Child Porn

The documents detail how the Geek Squad let the FBI know when child porn showed up on customers' computers. The company says its employees do not search for illegal materials, but do report when they inadvertently discover it.

In a statement to Ars Technica, Best Buy said it happens nearly 100 times a year. The company said that in 20 states it has a legal obligation to report their findings, and that is explained to customers in writing before any repairs on their computers.

But the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which made the FBI records public, says the Geek Squad did search at least one customer's computer for child porn. The nonprofit advocacy group challenged the search in a criminal case against California doctor Mark Rettenmaier.

A judge said it was not an illegal search because the doctor consented to letting the Geek Squad access his computer. However, the court threw out other evidence based on false FBI statements and the government dismissed the case.

FBI Tour

Best Buy acknowledged that "four employees may have received payment" from the FBI, but said their decision was "in very poor judgement and inconsistent" with company policy.

"Three of these employees are no longer with the company and the fourth has been reprimanded and reassigned," it said.

On one occasion, Best Buy employees gave FBI agents a tour of its "Cyber Working Group" and facilities. One Geek Squad worker received a $500 payment.

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