David Lindsey Colorado Attorney for Federal Crimes, Drug Crimes, White Collar, Fraud, Computer Crimes, Sex Crimes and Violent Crimes Defense

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Could Hiring a Computer Repair Service Lead to Child Pornography Charges against You? Maybe.

computer repairHiring a computer repair service can lead to criminal charges.

Looking at questionable material can lead you into a number of scary scenarios. And in many cases, people intentionally search for content they know they shouldn’t be viewing but the temptation is too great, even though doing so can get them in trouble.

What makes some people bold enough to hunt for illegal material online is the fact they are convinced they’ll get away with it. They don’t believe anyone will find out about their activities and they figure if they delete anything they download and/or delete their search history nobody will be aware of their activities.

This isn’t always the case though.

Recently, news surfaced that the FBI has been using Best Buy’s Geek Squad repair personnel as informants. This means that without your knowledge and certainly without a search warrant, law enforcement officials have and are willing to intrude upon your personal property and disregard your rights – all because you needed to have your computer repaired.

The fact that individual Geek Squad employees had been recruited by the FBI has been public knowledge for some time now. But more recently it was revealed that a relationship exists between Best Buy and the FBI. The entire company has been working with federal agents for over a decade and until recently that fact was unbeknown to customers of big box tech retailer.

The information came to light as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. You can learn more about that organization here.

What is Best Buy and the Geek Squad Doing with the Feds?

Essentially, when customers dropped off their computers for repair at Best Buy, they were exposing everything on their computers to the FBI. Anything the Geek Squad found on computers it was servicing could have been reported to the agency. In most cases, these reports were linked to anything questionable found on a device related to child pornography.

In one case in California, a physician was prosecuted after images depicting child abuse were found on his computer by the Geek Squad. It was revealed during that trial that there were at least eight Geek Squad members working as informants and receiving up to $1000 when they turned information over to the FBI.

Later, it was revealed that in addition to those individual Geek Squad employees, Best Buy had hosted an employee meeting that included the FBI’s Cyber Crimes Working Group.

What Happens If the Geek Squad Finds Something on Your Computer?

When questionable materials are found on a customer’s computer, Best Buy employees report it to the FBI and the device is seized.

There were some instances in which the FBI secured a search warrant in order to search a device, but that only occurred after searches performed by the Geek Squad revealed questionable material. This type of search violates the legal rights of citizens guaranteed under the Fourth Amendment.

Of course, a lot of people believe that if a person is viewing child pornography they deserve whatever punishment they receive, regardless of how the evidence against them was gathered.

But what if the material on your computer is not child pornography but a member of the Geek Squad determines it is worth a review by the FBI? What if you have photos of your own children on your computer and Best Buy employees deem them inappropriate? What if something was downloaded onto your computer without your knowledge?

It’s understandable why Best Buy customers or anyone who uses a third-party to repair their computer or another tech device would be worried that someone with very limited law enforcement training would be reporting on anything they find to the FBI.

If you are concerned that something on your computer could get you into legal trouble or you believe the FBI or another law enforcement organization is investigating you as a result of a repair service viewing your images or other data, contact David Lindsey to schedule a free consultation.

 

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