Best Buy computer-tech department: an arm of the government?

Admittedly, the above-cited blog headline query leading off today’s post might come across as a bit alarming. After all, we’re talking the Geek Squad here, that Best Buy-hyped internal crew of computer-savvy workers who stand ever ready to remedy problems with customers’ computers and quickly return them in optimal operating condition.

Who knew that an ancillary result of such customer interaction in certain instances over the past several years has been a clandestine follow-up contact from a Best Buy employee to the Federal Bureau of Investigation concerning alleged criminal activities?

As related recently in a Washington Post report (with myriad other publications also addressing the topic), for the past several years some Geek Squad employees “have notified the FBI when they see signs of child pornography, earning payments from the agency.”

Should that trouble Americans?

Many people might argue that, no, there is nothing problematic about state and federal law enforcers being duly informed of alleged criminal conduct.

On the other hand, though, many of our Indiana readers and other persons across the country might see such a relationship — described by one commentator in the Post as troublingly “cozy” — as being materially disturbing.

After all, most Best Buy customers have a reasonable expectation of privacy when they interact with the company.

And then there’s this, which is likely the central issue for many people: If criminal authorities can threaten the liberty of citizens without the need to independently gather evidence following probable cause to initially investigate, the dilution of constitutional rights — especially protections against unreasonable searches — seems both clear and frightening.

The Geek Squad/FBI connection (admittedly, not having been proven yet to involve an appreciable number of worker informants) is currently spotlighted in a court case involving the computer of a Best Bu customer who is now on trial in a child pornography case.

The judge in that matter recently approved a defense request to probe into the details of the FBI’s informant scheme with select Best Buy employees.

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