A court is now examining whether agents of the FBI can hand over evidence to law enforcement agencies without obtaining a prior warrant or a specific consent for search and seizure.
In an interesting turn of events, the lawyer of a person accused in a child pornography case has alleged that Geek Squad, Best Buy’s tech support team, has provided evidence of child pornography to the FBI.
The defence lawyer has stated that the FBI has cultivated a relationship with at least 8 of Best Buy’s IT team over a period of 4 years. They served as confidential informants to the FBI and were paid handsomely for turning over evidence to the FBI.
The defence lawyer’s strategy raises the more pertinent question of whether when a person sends their gadget for repair into a shop at that point of time does the person lose the right to privacy and/or unreasonable search and seizure.
The defence lawyer has pointed out that the eight Geek Squad members in question worked in Best Buy’s tech support branch’s repair center in Brooks, Kentucky, which services gadgets from all over the country.
Thankfully, Best Buy has ensured that when users hand over their items for repair, they are made to sign a form which provides consent to search and seizure. Furthermore, the fine print states that any evidence of child pornography will require the company to hand over the device(s) to authorities.
Thus, since the FBI paid each of its informants to pass along evidence they had acquired during the natural course of their jobs, and since the FBI plans on keeping this practice alive, the Geek Squad members thus become essentially agents of the bureau.
A federal judge has now allowed the defence lawyers to explore that relationship between a company and the government whose functional relationship allowed the FBI to bypass the need to acquire a warrant or a specific consent for search and seizure.
Best Buy released the following statement on the company’s policy and at the case at hand:
“Best Buy and Geek Squad have no relationship with the FBI. From time to time, our repair agents discover material that may be child pornography, and we have a legal and moral obligation to turn that material over to law enforcement. We are proud of our policy and share it with our customers before we begin any repair.
“Any circumstances in which an employee received payment from the FBI is the result of extremely poor individual judgement, is not something we tolerate and is certainly not a part of our normal business behaviour.
“To be clear, our agents unintentionally find child pornography as they try to make the repairs the customer is paying for. They are not looking for it. Our policies prohibit agents from doing anything other than what is necessary to solve the customer’s problem so that we can maintain their privacy and keep up with the volume of repairs.”