If you are not already aware, then be forewarned; if a repair tech working on your personal computer comes across illegal material, it will likely be reported. So, let’s say you have a problem with your hard drive and you need to have some data recovered. When you turn your computer over to be serviced, you are agreeing that a technician can look through the contents of the drive because it is required to perform the job. As such, the discovery of illegal subject matter, typically child pornography, is usually an act of happenstance and not the result of a deliberate search.
But recently a situation has come to light indicating that the FBI has been pressuring companies that repair computers to find and report illicit materials. Specifically, there is evidence that suggests that the FBI collaborated with members of Best Buy’s Geek Squad in the search for illegal content.
Best Buy’s maintenance center is located in Kentucky, and customers from around the country have their computers serviced there. This includes a doctor in California, whose hard drive contained what appeared to be suspicious materials. The FBI was notified and used photos found on the drive as the basis for getting a search warrant for the doctor’s home. This led to the seizure of several devices said to be storing child pornography.
This case has a couple of troubling aspects. First, it appears that the FBI may have established a relationship with some of the Geek Squad members and would pay them rewards for reporting the discovery of illicit materials. And if this is the case, then are the Best Buy employees, federal agents, because they took money from the FBI? If so, then that means that a special consent or warrant should have been issued before the hard drive was searched.
As of the writing of this post the case was ongoing in federal court. Clearly, there is a gray area regarding who is and who isn’t a government agent in such cases. But it also bears out the lengths to which the FBI will go to try to capture those they believe are in possession of child pornography.
If you are facing such serious charges, you may wish to consider contacting an experienced federal criminal defense attorney.
Source: Record Searchlight, “Best Buy, FBI roles under scrutiny in child porn trial,” Andrea Eldridge, Jan 19, 2017