Geek Squad's secret spying on behalf of the FBI went on for a decade and involved constant, ongoing collaboration

A 2017 prosecution of a California doctor charged with possessing child pornography revealed that the FBI had been tipped off by a Best Buy technician the doctor had paid to service his computer; the technician had searched his computer and then provided evidence to the FBI, sidestepping the need for the FBI to obtain a warrant.

The trial revealed that this was a routine activity for Best Buy's service technicians, who were given cash bonuses by the FBI for undertaking detailed forensic examinations of customers' devices without their knowledge or consent and without any particularized suspicion.

EFF filed a raft of Freedom of Information requests about the practice, and has published a lengthy analysis of what we know about the Best Buy/FBI collaboration, and which areas remain murky.

They show that Best Buy and the FBI collaborated for at least a decade, and confirm that Best Buy technicians were given secret cash bonuses for rooting around on customers' computers. FBI agents were given tours of Best Buy service centers, and engaged in "parallel construction" where they'd use tips from Best Buy to secure warrants, without revealing to their investigation subjects that the initial info had come from technicians who had effectively been deputized by the FBI to conduct warrantless, suspicionless searches.

Although these documents provide new details about the FBI's connection to Geek Squad and its Kentucky repair facility, the FBI has withheld a number of other documents in response to our FOIA suit. Worse, the FBI has refused to confirm or deny to EFF whether it has similar relationships with other computer repair facilities or businesses, despite our FOIA specifically requesting those records. The FBI has also failed to produce documents that would show whether the agency has any internal procedures or training materials that govern when agents seek to cultivate informants at computer repair facilities.

Geek Squad's Relationship with FBI Is Cozier Than We Thought
[Aaron Mackey/EFF]