Best Buy In Niles Illinois – NILES, IL – JUNE 06: Geek Squad double agent Moira Hardeck leaves for work at a Best Buy store on June 6, 2006 in Niles, Illinois. Best Buy operates a “Geek Squad” computer service and repair facility at ten Office Depot stores in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images) Tim Boyle/Getty Images
Yes, they wear badges and drive black and white cars. But some Geek Squad agents seem to take the “agent” part of their names too literally.
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Consumer electronics giant Best Buy, which owns an on-call computer repair service, recently admitted that four employees took money from the FBI after the agency received information from the agents of clients who suspected child pornography. As a result, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, based in San Francisco, is suing the Department of Justice to reveal the extent of the FBI’s ties to Best Buy.
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A nonprofit foundation fears the FBI is hiring Geek Squad employees as undercover informants to spy on people through their devices — a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against illegal government search and seizure.
Aaron McKee, the foundation’s attorney, said: “If the government gathers people who do technical maintenance, they whitewash unconstitutional searches on individuals.”
The case raises important consumer privacy issues as concerns about government surveillance, particularly through third parties, grow. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden released documents showing that AT&T and Verizon gave the agency access to emails and other data passing through their networks.
Turning to technology support vendors offers the government a way to access information on hard drives or cloud servers without having a warrant.
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“Any decision to accept the payment was extremely poor judgment and contrary to our practice and policies,” Matt Furman, Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer, said in an email. “Three of those employees are no longer with the company, and the fourth has been replaced and replaced.”
According to Furman, the employees acted independently in accepting the money and the money did not go to the company.
“About 100 times a year, the Geek Squad repair crew finds what appears to be child pornography on customers’ computers,” he said. “Our staff is not looking for this material; They accidentally discover it while trying to confirm that we have recovered lost customer data.
Finding child pornography is one thing; Scott Shackelford, an associate professor of business law and ethics who directs the cybersecurity program at Indiana University Bloomington, said courts usually turn to law enforcement in such matters.
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But if the federal background checks go beyond the illegal images, “that poses some serious problems with the relationship of the FBI with the employees of (Best Buy),” Shackelford said.
This depends on how the cause of the Electronic Frontier Foundation develops. If the organization discovers documents that show close ties between Best Buy and the FBI, it and other organizations that provide technology support could lose the trust and confidence of consumers. For example, Amazon and Best Buy are looking to extend technology services into homes and businesses.
“We’ll see what comes out of the foundation’s efforts,” said Darren Hayes, assistant professor at Pace University’s Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems in New York. If Best Buy and the FBI are shown to be working together. “raises legal and constitutional questions: Is Best Buy acting as an agent of the government?”
In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 52 percent of respondents said they were “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about government surveillance of American information and communications. 61 percent said consumer data collected by retailers and other businesses will remain secure or private.
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The connection between Geek Squad agents and the FBI came to light in 2014 after a federal grand jury indicted California doctor Mark Rettenmeier on charges of child pornography.
Three years ago, Rettenmaier had his computer repaired at the Geek Squad counter at Best Buy. The employee found what he believed to be pornographic images on the hard drive and notified the FBI. Based on that image, the FBI obtained a warrant to search Rettenmeier’s home, where agents found child pornography, according to court documents.
Best Buy requires anyone leaving a computer for Geek Squad repair to sign a document stating that the retailer will turn over to authorities any device containing child pornography. Geek Squad agents cannot specifically search for material; They can act only if they are accidentally encountered during the performance of the requested service.
“Our policy prohibits employees from doing what is necessary to resolve the customer’s problem,” Furman said.
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According to emails in court documents, FBI agents had close ties to Geek Squad employees, even referring to them as “sources,” including the employee and supervisor who found the image on Rettenmeier’s computer.
Rettenmeier’s attorney, James Ridette, disputed the warrant’s validity, saying the employee was specifically looking for illegal material on behalf of the FBI. Therefore, the court must destroy evidence from Rettenmeier’s home because the warrant was based on information on the hard drive that the government obtained illegally.
“We still believe it’s illegal to hunt down whistleblowers,” Ridette said in a brief interview. “I think that’s something people should know when they bring their devices to Best Buy.”
But a federal judge ruled against Rettenmeyer, who signed a document at Best Buy and consented to the search. (The judge eventually threw out most of the evidence, but for a different reason: The image found on his computer wasn’t technically child pornography. The judge postponed the trial until next year.)
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“We are continuing to review the case, so no decision has been made on how the case will proceed,” Tom Mrozek, a spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, said in an email.
A person accused of possessing child pornography may not be popular. But the case raises broader questions, experts say. Joshua Carlson, a privacy and cybersecurity attorney in Minneapolis, questioned whether paid third parties could seek other information on behalf of the government. What about charging other companies to investigate cases of copyright infringement or other intellectual property issues?
The Geek Squad has been in trouble with the law before. In 2013, Best Buy paid an undisclosed amount to settle a lawsuit brought by a college student who claimed a Geek Squad agent stole nude photos from her computer and posted them online.
“It’s a big slippery slope,” said Carlson, who previously worked in data security and information technology for Best Buy. Besides baby feet, what else are they looking for? Where does it stop?
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42°00’36″N 87°45’57″W / 42.0101°S 87.7658°W. / 42.0101; -87.7658 Coordinates: 42 ° 00’36” N 87 ° 45’57” W / 42.0101 ° C 87.7658 ° W / 42.0101; -87.7658
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Village Crossing Shopping Cter, or simply Village Crossing, is a regional shopping center located on Toohey Avenue (Illinois Route 72) between the borders of Skokie, Illinois, and Niles. The mall has 57 retail stores, including Jewel-Osco, Dick’s Sporting Goods, PetSmart, Michaels, Best Buy, and an 18-screen AMC theater. The parking lot is connected to AMC Theaters and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Village Crossing Shopping Center opened in 1989 in the former headquarters of a 63-acre manufacturing facility operated by AT&T and Teletype Corporation in Skokie, Illinois.
In 1987, AT&T announced that the Teletype facility would be closed and all 1,000 employees would move to another facility in Naperville, Illinois. After nearly 30 years of operation, the facility was officially closed later that year.
Trammell Crow acquired and developed the site for an undisclosed amount. Construction began in early 1988. Many of the industrial complex’s structures were demolished in favor of parking lots and a 500,000-square-foot garage.
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It was one of the first anchor shops to open in the first phase of Village Crossing