FOIA docs reveal FBI paid some Geek Squad workers who ratted out customers

Details about a relationship between some Best Buy Geek Squad employees and the FBI were revealed today by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). The organization filed a Freedom of Information Act suit in 2017 in order to get more details about an apparent association between the FBI and at least a few Geek Squad employees. The documents allegedly reveal that some of those workers were being paid by the government to work as informants.

According to the EFF, it received documentation revealing the FBI has worked with some individuals in Best Buy's Geek Squad for 10 or more years. Geek Squad workers reportedly gave FBI officials a tour of a repair facility in Kentucky, and the government agency allegedly paid some Geek Squad workers are informants.

One worker reportedly received $500 from the FBI, which is said to have made other payments, as well. The documents indicate that Geek Squad workers at the Kentucky repair facility would contact a local FBI office if they found child pornography on a customer's laptop, after which time an FBI agent would show up at the facility to review the machine's contents.

The documents reveal that in some of these cases, the FBI would seize the hardware, ship it to an FBI field office located near to the customer, and officials at that office would take over, sometimes going so far as to try and get a warrant for searching the machine.

Terms used in the documents raised questions at the EFF over whether some Geek Squad workers had a special relationship with the FBI, which referred to some of those employees as "confidential human sources." That is in contrast to other documents which simply refer to information as provided by Best Buy workers.

Some cases, according to the EFF, indicate that workers may have been rewarded with cash if they found child porn and that the employees may have, at least in some cases, deliberately searched for illegal material, which is against company policy. Many details remain absent, however, including documents the EFF says it wasn't granted under the FOIA request.

Best Buy itself, however, has provided some information to ZDNet via a spokesperson. According to the provided statement, Best Buy said that its workers don't search for illegal material, but that they stumble across child pornography around 100 times every year. Many states require the company to report the discoveries to law enforcement, which is expected.

However, the company did reveal that four of its workers "may have received payment after turning over alleged child pornography to the FBI." The company says receiving payment was "in very poor judgement" and against company training and policies. Of those four workers, only one is still with the company; he or she has since been "reprimanded and reassigned."

SOURCE: Electronic Frontier Foundation