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Documents show FBI paid Geek Squad staff as informants

The FBI paid Best Buy Geek Squad employees to act as informants, according to documents obtained by the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

The documents show that the FBI and Best Buy have had a relationship that goes back at least 10 years.

The FBI and Geek Squad appear to have had a process for how the bureau would investigate and prosecute people who had given their devices to Geek Squad to be repaired.

Geek Squad would let the FBI know if they found what they believed to be child pornography on a device and the FBI would go to the Geek Squad facility to assess the materials and determine if they were illegal, the documents reportedly show.

The FBI would then take the device for further investigation.

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The documents show that Geek Squad would only call the FBI if they found possible illegal material during manual searches.

However, the EFF argues, the case of Mark Rettenmaier — the California doctor who was charged with child pornography possession after Geek Squad employees say they discovered it on his computer — shows that Geek Squad employees made actual efforts to find illegal material, possibly using forensic software to search devices.

There is evidence that Geek Squad employees were paid when they would find child pornography, which the EFF says would act to encourage the employees to actively search for the content.

One of the documents recorded a $500 payment from the FBI to a Geek Squad employee. According to the EFF, this payment is one of the payments that has been linked to Rettenmaier’s case.

The released documents found that Best Buy had the FBI visit one of their repair facilities for the agency’s “Cyber Working Group” and that Geek Squad employees gave FBI officials a tour of the facilities.

The documents were released following an EFF Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in 2017

The EFF plans to challenge the FBI in court later this year for withholding other requested documents and refusing to answer questions about whether it had similar relationships with other computer repair companies.