Best Buy’s Geek Squad usually fixes computers and other hardware, but it’s not the only thing they do. Via the Orange County Weekly, eight Geek Squad technicians were found to have acted as paid FBI informants and a pending court case involving the news looks to raise major privacy and legal questions.
According to the case, Orange County physician Mark Rettenmaier brought in his computer to Geek Squad technicians in 2011. As the OC Weekly writes:
According to court records, Geek Squad technician John "Trey" Westphal, an FBI informant, reported he accidentally located on Rettenmaier's computer an image of "a fully nude, white prepubescent female on her hands and knees on a bed, with a brown choker-type collar around her neck." Westphal notified his boss, Justin Meade, also an FBI informant, who alerted colleague Randall Ratliff, another FBI informant at Best Buy, as well as the FBI. Claiming the image met the definition of child pornography and was tied to a series of illicit pictures known as the "Jenny" shots, agent Tracey Riley seized the hard drive.
However, the case is complicated by several issues. While Best Buy is legally allowed to search customer computers, the FBI’s use of paid informants without a warrant could potentially violate Fourth Amendment protections over unreasonable searches. Per the Washington Post, Geek Squad informants were paid money, but frequency and amounts — outside of a single $500 payment to a supervisor — were not detailed.
In addition, the files were found on the computer’s unallocated space, which refers to the hard drive space that temporarily holds deleted files. Past court precedent has held that files stored in this space are not legally equal to possession.