Best Buy’s computer repair workers have been aiding the FBI for at least 10 years, new documents suggest.
They indicate that several of the US company’s Geek Squad staff were paid for reporting child abuse imagery.
The rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation said that the relationship “circumvents computer owners’ Fourth Amendment rights” to privacy.
The FBI did not respond to questions about its relationship with other repair companies, according to the EFF.
The EFF began a Freedom of Information Act legal action to obtain the documents last year, after a doctor was prosecuted for child abuse imagery when Geek Squad technician reported an image of a naked child on his computer to FBI agents.
It was previously reported that the technician had been paid $500 (£360) by the FBI.
The charges were dropped in November 2017 when a federal judge ruled that the image flagged by the Geek Squad technician was not sufficient evidence for the FBI to request a search warrant. The judge also ruled that the photograph did not qualify as child abuse imagery.
The new documents indicate that the US consumer electronics giant hosted a meeting of the FBI’s Cyber Working Group in a computer repair facility as early as 2008.
During the visit, agents were also reportedly given a tour of the building.
The documents also suggest that Geek Squad technicians report only material they happen to find while doing repairs, rather than actively searching for illegal content on customers’ devices.
Best Buy said in a statement that it prohibited employees “from doing anything other than what is necessary to solve the customer’s problem”.
“In the wake of these allegations, we have redoubled our efforts to train employees on what to do – and not do – in these circumstances.”
“Our employees do not search for this material; they inadvertently discover it when attempting to confirm we have recovered lost customer data.”