Customer Gets 30 Months Prison After Geek Squad Finds Child Porn On His Computer

Child porn is a most heinous exploitation and its publishers and consumers should be boiled in blood, then stabbed in the face, then fed to wolverines. The Geek Squad is helping feed those wolverines by reporting child porn they find on customer’s computers to the police, the St Louis Dispatch reports:

Vishal Sehjpal, 22, of the 1700 block of Stifel Lane Drive, brought his computer into the Chesterfield Best Buy store in 2004 for repair. A technician found a video file that appeared to contain child pornography and called police, who contacted Sehjpal and searched his computer and CDs.

Sehjpal pleaded guilty in February to two felony counts of possession of child pornography and admitted possessing both still pictures and videos that contained child porn that he’d downloaded from the Internet.

We’re not joking, child porn is really really bad, which is how Geek Squad techs must justify snooping through customer’s files. They’re stopping child pornographers. Every customer could be a child pornographer, so it’s necessary to look through every computer. And hell, why not save the non child porn while you’re at it, then share it on a common computer with the other techs. Just doing our job to protect the community, yessir. — BEN POPKEN

Chesterfield man gets 30 months for child porn [St. Louis Dispatch] (Thanks to Neil!)

PREVIOUSLY:
We’re Always Looking For Porn On Customer’s Computers, Techies Confirm
The 10 Page Geek Squad Confession – “Stealing Customers’ Nudie Pics Was An Easter Egg Hunt”

Comments

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  1. randomized says:

    Is there proof Geek Squad didn’t plant it on there as revenge on a hard-ass customer?

  2. ShadeWalker says:

    wouldn’t this article just dissuade child pornographers to not go to geek squad for computer repairs?

  3. afran303 says:

    I don’t see the problem in this. This freak-show got exactly what was coming to him, you have no right to privacy by giving up your computer.

  4. DashTheHand says:

    I thought that the previous statement was that they were looking only at suspicious file names and not at the files themselves? Wouldn’t that be an ‘ethics’ or ‘sexual harrassment’ violation by looking at porn at work?

  5. scoobydoo says:

    This is a tough one.

    On the one hand: death to all child pornographers (literally, just kill them all)

    But, to find that ONE kiddie porn file on this guys PC they must have checked every single video file on his PC, once again proving that Geeksquad does look for porn on your PC.

    Unless of course the file was on his desktop and was labled “kiddie porn video file”.

    If they are checking for porno, who is to say they are not checking your credit report PDF’s or other private information. Perhaps they are saving your browser password files, or checking the cache for your banking information.

    To afran303: BS of course. You have every right to privacy when you give up your PC FOR REPAIR. It isn’t like he sold it, or threw it away. If I bring a PC to Geeksquad (NFW), I’d expect them to do the job required to fix the machine, repairing that machine does not require them to go through my files, view my video collection or try and search for porn. They can check system files for problems, but that is where it ends.

  6. Buran says:

    @afran303: While I agree the guy should be prosecuted, I don’t think GS has any busines snooping around. If something comes up on the screen that’s one thing, but deliberate snooping is another — and GS even admits they undelete deleted files to find porn. That’s way over the line.

    The police can’t go rooting through your house just to find evidence if they don’t have cause to get a warrant. GS shouldn’t either.

  7. Nicholai says:

    Hey! I guess geek squad is good for something! Oh, and I think boiling them in vinegar would be more potent.^^

  8. afran303 says:

    @Buran: But that’s the whole point, GS is not the police. The constitution doesn’t protect against unreasonable searches by Best Buy.

  9. SirKeats says:

    does anyone know if you sign a waiver that permits them to view all of your files? i’m just wondering if there’s the risk of some type of illegal search and seizure here. I know GS isn’t the police, but if the evidence was obtained “illegally” I’m wondering how much bearing it has in court. GS could be doing a disservice to law enforcement. Someone in the legal know can perhaps clarify.

    Not that I’m not glad another sicko is in jail or anything… I’m just curious as to the legality of it all.

  10. Prosumerist says:

    LOL there we go with the constitution worship. Whatever happened to ‘common sense’? Yes, if you’re careless enough to place questionable content in a public place you’re risking exposure no matter what. On the other hand it’s comforting to know that soon it will be too terrifying to leave your front door. Not yet, but soon.

  11. yg17 says:

    I haven’t shopped at that exact Best Buy for a year after they screwed my brother over (Best Buy screwing someone over? Impossible!!!!!111). Now that they got this sick fuck locked up, I may have second thoughts about not shopping there.


    Then again, the Circuit City down the street is SO much better.

  12. If you send your computer to Geek Squad with kiddie porn on it… you deserve what you get… end of story.

    If someone found a dead hooker in the back of someone’s car at the auto shop you wouldnt hear people going “well why was the tech in the trunk??”

    Get over it people. We all know what happens when you send any of your property away for any kind of service. That’s why they make valet keys and external hard drives. These people deserve to fall victim to their ignorance.

  13. yg17 says:

    And I just mapquested where that guy lived. Its like a 5 minute drive from my house. Ugh. You never really think about it until they practically live next door to you. sick bastard

  14. Angiol says:

    @Prosumerist: Yes, but undeleting files? That’s way beyond the bounds of “oops, I accidentally saw your porn” and into “I intentionally went looking for pornography on your computer” territory.

  15. afran303 says:

    @LittleJoe: I LOVE hooker metaphors. Excellent!

  16. Angiol says:

    @LittleJoe: Like I said, right above, that’s reasonable, but only to a point. When the GS team is undeleting files, a line has been crossed. It’s like said tech tearing apart a seat cushion to find the weed you had hidden in there… while performing tire maintenance.

  17. Stormyaaron says:

    As much as I agree that Child pron is bad, are you this comment is promoting the much hated RIAA’s style of “Every one is guilty and must be searched and punished” approach. It is one thing to find it by accident (namely if it is “out in the open”) but looking for said materials brings up a security concern for me, first it is child pron then “though-crimes” next? What they are doing is a very big gray area, in one area it is good yet in the other they are possibly breaking privacy laws. Heck in the US cops can not even do it unless the owner gives consent or they get a search warrant. A few years ago there was this court case in my state, some cops using infra-red goggles for one reason or another. Find a person making drugs in there house, the case had to be tossed out due to the police failed to get a search warrant and probable cause was an invalided reason given the circumstances. Even thought this deals with privet computers in US v. Ziegler (Ziegler had Child pron on his office computer boss found out sent made a copy of the hard drive and sent it to the FBI), the courts ruled that “Ziegler had a reasonable expectation of privacy at his office and on his computer.That Court also found that his employer could consent to a government search of the computer, and that did not violate Ziegler’s Fourth Amendment rights” Yet being that the computer was owned by Vishal Sehjpal and no one else it would seem that possibly he was given an illegal searches and seizures being that he should have an even greater expectation of privacy. Yeah what he did was wrong, yet the rights of the people must be protected. All in all since it did not detail how the repairman found the file, I may be wrong, yet looking for stuff such as this with out probational cause as was suggested would be grossly violating the rights of the people (in America at lease where this is based at/ most readers it seem come from)

  18. spanky says:

    It’s not unconstitutional, and it’s very likely to not be illegal.

    It IS creepy and unethical, though, unless the files are sitting out in plain sight, and the tech sees them accidentally, in the course of doing legitimate work.

    Does anyone else remember Operation TIPS?

  19. Scazza says:

    Okay, I know where I stand on this one. Before I am crucified, I am equally disgusted as everyone else is with child porn even existing and think people who even watch child porn should be jailed (for having clear mental deficiancies that could escelated to endanger the life of real children), and the producers should be executed (btw, I am canadian and am normally a big anti-death penalty person).

    However, Geek squad have NO legal right to search anyones harddrive. Infact, I am surprised that this person got arrested for an illegal search of his computer, also evidence gathered through a third party is inadmissable in US courts as far as I can recall)

    Items on a persons harddrive should fall under privacy rights, even if you pass off the item to be repaired at a third party. You do not give geek squad the right to scan or look at the content of a harddrive, only the repair/restoration of the data, which does not need to be viewed to do.

    If you take your car in to get an oil change, and the mechanic is caught looking through the locked coin box and finds a dime of weed (no child porn is not the equivilant, i know), they had no right, and the police would most likely not be allowed to use it against them without a warranty (which to obtain would need to include evidence that would lead to a warrant being issued) being issued for the search of the car…

    Either way, I don’t think its a fair search and its a “slippery slope” so to speak… where does our privacy start/stop?

  20. NeoteriX says:

    @randomized:

    Is there proof Geek Squad didn’t plant it on there as revenge on a hard-ass customer?

    Uh, well, yes. He plead guilty.

  21. dragonflight says:

    @scoobydoo: couldn’t have said it better myself

  22. killface says:

    Why is everyone saying that they were searching for these kinds of files? There is nothing saying that they were perusing through his My Documents folder when they had no right.

    “A technician found a video file that appeared to contain child pornography”

    Ok this doesn’t say a lot, but the first thing that I assume is that there was something right there on the desktop that was questionable.

    “[...] and called police who contacted Sehjpal and searched his computer and CDs.”

    The police searched after that. And to the people saying the police have no legal right to prosecute him through third party blah blah blah, the article says he pleaded guilty. No fight there.

  23. Blackneto says:

    I’ve been on the tech side of this.
    Customer brings computer in because it’s acting funny.
    As a matter of policy we image the drive before proceeding with any file system work to protect from data loss. This fact is noted on every WO a customer signs when they come it. They can opt out and agree not to hold us responsible for any data loss, or let us do it, for a fee we will hold the backup for 30 days and reimage it for them if they want for free during that time period.
    So we image the drive, determine that the problem is a virus and start a virus scan. During the scan we find kiddy porn.
    The boss says we go Straight to the police.

    I have every legal right to search anyones hard drive that is brought to me for any kind of work that requires me to do anything with the filesystem.
    The Customer has given me consent to do this by bringing it to me.
    I cannot Do a virus scan without searching the drive. If i choose to watch it while it is happening instead of working on something else I WILL see the names of a number of files.
    If anything jumps out as kiddy porn I will call the cops.
    The tools I use find hidden files. This is because virus writers hide files to keep the OS or virus scan software from viewing them.
    So everyone up in arms about GS, and i’m no fan of them, searching the drives remember the fact that the customer gives them access. And i’m sure that just like me they have something in the paper the customer signs that says they will accessing the filesystem.

    So if you don’t want your files viewed, take them off your computer before you take it to a tech.

  24. Stormyaaron says:

    @killface: The people who are raising concern are saying more like “Where does privacy stater and end” and pointing out how they should not even needed to see the storage on the computer. Also some are starting the seemly hypocritical view stated in the post of “which is how Geek Squad techs must justify snooping through customer’s files, that they’re stopping child pornographers. Every customer could be a child pornographer, so it’s necessary to look through every computer.” which sounds a LOT like the RIAA’s BS of “Any one can be a music pirate so we must accuse every one of doing this, and look at there computers.” Last time I checked in the US it was “innacent until proven guilty” not “guilty until proven innacent” the issues people are making deal more with this then the fact that he had child porn or that child porn is bad, but it is the deeper issue at hand.

  25. joemono says:

    Those GS employees must have massive mp3 collections.

  26. Framling says:

    They keep the non-child porn as instructional material. “This is not child porn. Neither is this. No, no, she’s eighteen, I’ve seen her site. No, seriously, she’s just a midget.”

    Actually, my uncle is a lawyer who winds up defending a lot of these kinds of cases. A lot of the time, it’ll just be something in the computer’s IE cache or the like from when they were browsing potentially legit porn sites. This is usually enough shadow of a doubt to… uh… err… get them off.

    Sorry.

  27. RonDiaz says:

    I totally agree, child porn is one of the worst crimes and exploitations. He should have just came to Winona and used the universities public access terminals. We had a guy here looking at child porn a couple times a week, but thanks to the sheer incompetence of the campus security botching every possible step of the investigation the DA wouldn’t take the case to court. I mean we all know that campus security is a joke but had I known that would happen I would just have taken it straight to the police.

    Maybe someone should take a PC into Geek Squad filled with Consumerist stories about how geek Squad sucks and see what they do to it.

  28. Eric says:

    I worked for Geek Squad while I was finishing school so I would like to weigh in on this issue.

    There are perfectly valid reasons for any technician to be viewing customer files. If a customer requested a data backup or was having viruses removed would be two examples of a how a technician could stumble on these files.

    It is quite possible to know by the name of the file what the video contains.

    I don’t have any first-hand knowledge of this incident so I won’t pretend to know the circumstances under which the file was found, it would be nice if other people would show the same respect. The fact remains that the technician that reported this did the right thing. By reporting this to the police he would have had to make a statement and agree to testify if the case went to court. Show some respect and quit assuming that everyone who works for Geek Squad is a pervert or on a quest for porn. They have literally thousands of technicnans and some are good and some are crap.

    The management position on child porn was that we were not police and should not be looking for it BUT if it is found you report it to the police. What the hell is wrong with that policy?

  29. Hoss says:

    Are the Geeks hero’s here? WTF are they doing viewing video? Merry Maids (the house cleaning service) shouldn’t be opening drawers — Geek Squad shouldn’t be opening files. If you’re saying those with kiddie porn shouldn’t hire Geek Squad and those with heroin in drawers shouldn’t hire Merry Maids — good point. But leave MY shit alone you twits

  30. spanky says:

    There have been a couple of recent stories in which Geek Squad and other low level computer techs admitted to intentionally searching through customers’ hard drives looking for porn.

    I doubt many people have an issue with this if the guy happened to run across the video in the course of doing his job, like a photo developer might. That’s kind of a non-starter.

    There’s something of a hypothetical element, but I think just about everyone is aware of that.

  31. Kat says:

    I don’t know when these people find time to snoop through computers. When I was a BB tech (before Geek Squad came in), we didn’t have TIME to go snooping through computers.

  32. MrFlashport says:

    any 2 year criminal law student can get these charges thrown out, or an assistant DA will get laughed out of a courtroom. There is enough reasonable doubt as an affirmative defense to claim that the alleged pornography wasn’t on the system and wasn’t even on the defendant’s property. It’s called an evidence chain of custody and it wasn’t secured during a lawful search, henceforth even if he admitted to it being his it’s what is known as fruits of a poison tree. Illegal search, no proof of custody=reasonable doubt=dismissed or no bill of indictment. It doesn’t mean anything unless they can PROVE it was his…

  33. Hoss says:

    @MrFlashport: There’s likely a confession here — the Indian surname makes me wonder if he didn’t think it was a big crime

  34. Nygdan says:

    They also check every photograph that you bring to get developed anywhere. Its the law in most states, heck it might even be a federal law. In fact, some states are already starting to require computer techs to do this, or at least providing them ‘witness’ like protections.

    @ Hossofcourse,
    WTF does him having an indian surname have to do with him thinking its okay to have child pornography? Indian culture is, if anything, less accepting of pornography in the first place. Probably a stupid idea for you to slander an entire people like that.

  35. superbmtsub says:

    @MrFlasport: There’s a vague law somewhere that states that if you’re guilty (or in this case admit guilt), you dont have any grounds to argue in defense for the presiding case. But this does leave room to counter-sue based on ethics or breach of contract.

    There’s the question of how the tech uncovered the file.
    1. Did he go out of his way to locate the file (ie. restoring “deleted” files)?
    2. Did he find the file in plain sight under conditions that any reasonable person would do so?

    As much as I hate child-porn pervs, if #1 is true, the GS tech SHOULD be sued and GS in general for fostering such unethical behavior.

    If #2 is correct, GO DIRECTLY TO JAIL you perv.

    Then we have another question which deals with the core matter: what was the reason for the computer to be brought to Geek Squad for repair?
    1. Did the client/perv ask GS techs to recover lost/missing files?
    2. Did the client/perv ask GS techs to fix unrelated components (ie. hardware).

    It’s so easy to condemn and crucify people at face value. Our lives are a bit more intricate than what the sensational media “chooses” to report.

  36. Coder4Life says:

    Common Now, most companies will look for porn on your computer if you take it in… Seriously, how hard is it to get rid of it before you take it in.

    Only reason you should have to worry is if u can’t boot into windows..

    CompUSA does this all the time, jsut for the fun of it. But they don’t keep the pictures.. You really have to be a pervert to keep them.

  37. NoNamesLeft says:

    So all of the people that are openly defending GS, what virus attach themselves to video and jpg files? Not many. I think we all have to ask ourselves, do the ends justify the means?

    I would like to see GS get sued for copyright infringement for illegally reproducing all of the porn and mp3s that we know they steal off of people’s machines.

  38. Buran says:

    @afran303: No — but nor does the law allow anyone to go snooping through your private property. I certainly don’t expect the mechanic to go through the contents of my glove compartment or the hatch area of my car, and I shouldn’t have to lock them to keep snoops out. A repair tech has no business doing anything other than doing the work he/she was hired to do.

    I repair computers and I don’t snoop.

    And anyone remember the incident where a Home Depot subcontractor snooped around someone’s house? Remember the outrage? Where’s the outrage now?

    Again, it’s one thing if the banned stuff shows up on its own or is readily apparent, and that’s cause to call the police. Invading privacy to look for something that MIGHT be there is not okay.

  39. killface says:

    “Indian culture is, if anything, less accepting of pornography in the first place. Probably a stupid idea for you to slander an entire people like that.”

    There was a fair share of Indians on Dateline’s To Catch a Predator. No culture is immune to pervs.

  40. MasterSoup says:

    As a current GS Employee; Ive come across this before. And it was NOT due to me snooping through a customers computer. What ended up happening was we were running a command line virus scan; nothing out of the ordinary and it came up with an “Error Cannot Access File: XXXXXX” where it said explicit remarks regarding child pornography. Just because the Geek Squad finds something doesnt mean they were snooping for crap like that.

  41. SOhp101 says:

    First of all, I do agree that child porn is disgusting and should never be condoned in any sort of manner.

    However, I don’t think we know what agreement he signed exactly when surrendering his computer to GS. Likely there was some type of agreement that authorized GS to go through the HD. Looking at deleted files, however, seems to be unnecessary search.

    But I also have to agree that ‘common sense’ should be the best idea. Unfortunately most people do not have any common sense.

    @afran303: afran, do you honestly think the constitution only applies to law enforcement? Next you’ll be saying that Bush’s wiretapping and opening of random mail with no consent to search is legal! Then again maybe it’s good that you don’t understand your rights; Darwin award up ahead.

  42. afran303 says:

    @SOhp101: My point is simple, this is criminal. The GS are not law enforcement, and not subject to the same constitutional requirements as law enforcement. No doubt based on the information provided by a named GS employee the police got proper warrants, as the constitution requires, hence the guilty plea. The idea that Mr. Flashport says that “an assistant DA will get laughed out of a courtroom” is preposterous! I’m a prosecutor and have a very similar case pending, which has stood up on every lame-ass pretrial motion. Whether or not there is a possible civil suit for invasion of privacy is a separate matter.

  43. Buran says:

    @killface: Uh… you didn’t see the rest of the articles on this site where GS admits to searching deliberately for porn without your permission? I guess not, but I’m surprised because there were so many such articles.

  44. Havok154 says:

    I don’t know of a computer repair company/service that wouldn’t/hasn’t turned in people with child porn. If you have illegal stuff on your machine, your just stupid to bring it to someone else for repair and think they won’t turn you in if they find it. Or you could just not do illegal stuff in the first place, but then if you were that smart, you wouldn’t of brought it into someone for repair.

  45. killface says:

    @Buran: uh yes I have read of such, but this article hasn’t said anything to give us any idea of how the file was found. They could have been looking for porn, the file could have been named “kiddie porn” and right there on the desktop, they could have noticed a strange filename while doing a virus scan like Eric said above, or a million other possibilities.

    Yes we have definitely cleared up that GS has some problems, but in this particular case we have zero way to know for sure how the file was located.

  46. Antediluvian says:

    So, does no one else have a problem w/ Consumerist posting his home address on the front page? While it was in the newspaper article, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be “[address redacted]” or even replaced w/ “….”

    One of you already said you mapquested (who the hell uses mapquest any more?) his address. I’m not defending kiddie porn, but I don’t like setting people up for vigilante justice. I see no benefit to this and I see many drawbacks.

  47. Anonymous-Writer says:

    As a former Geek Squad agent (I wrote the 10-page confessional), I don’t think this man should be instantly strung up.

    First off, if he is indeed a collector of child pornography, as much as it is wrong for him to have child pornography, it is wrong for the agent to be looking through his files and stumbling upon it.

    Secondly, I do not trust Geek Squad enough to completely rule out the idea that it could have been put there by a disgruntled employee, or mixed up with another customer’s backup.

    Think about this… if there are indeed people with child pornography getting work done at Geek Squad (and I can vouch that there are from my own experiences working there), Geek Squad keeps backups for about 3 months on their server.

    Which means that if they do back up child pornography infested computers, Geek Squad itself is harboring child pornography.

    And, I can vouch to the fact that mistakes do happen, and backups are sometimes mixed up… what happens if your backup is mixed up with the person who had child pornography?

    Again, I’m not defending people that have child pornography. I’m just saying that in no way should Geek Squad be given the respect or power of a police officer, detective, or judge.

    In my honest opinion, this person’s computer should be investigated by a competent computer technician, and the agent that found the video should be charged with invasion of privacy.

  48. yg17 says:

    @Antediluvian:

    Oh, I’ve got to plan to go to this guy’s house and do some vigilante crap, his cellmate Bubba will take care of him. This Best Buy is 10 minutes from my house and wanted to see if this sick bastard lived anywhere near me or a school. 5 minutes from me, but at least he’s not across the street from an area school.

    And actually, I used Google Maps. I’ve just yet to hear Google Maps used in a verb sense, so I used Mapquested, just like you can use Kleenex to refer to any tissue ;)

  49. yg17 says:

    @Anonymous-Writer:
    “In my honest opinion, this person’s computer should be investigated by a competent computer technician, and the agent that found the video should be charged with invasion of privacy.”

    As others have said, I don’t think you can consider this an invasion of privacy just yet. It depends on how the files were found. If the GS agent dug deep into the filesystem to find it or recovered deleted items or something like that, then yes, perhaps privacy was invaded. But if there was a folder on the desktop (which a GS agent is going to see no matter what) titled “kiddie porn” then the only person who had their rights violated in this whole thing were the kids themselves. The fact that this guy a) downloads child porn and b) took his computer to Geek Squad of all places tells me that he likely is not too computer savvy and would not know how to hide his stuff too well.

    We just don’t know enough to judge the geek squad agent yet

  50. SOhp101 says:

    @afran303: You’re a prosecutor? Really? Then from the level of knowledge of law in your reply, I must be the supreme ruler the the universe. I’m no lawyer but I do know that your reasoning makes no sense whatsoever.

    If what Flashport said was incorrect, you should explain why in your infinite wisdom instead of just dismissing it.

    P.S. Is your aka Essjay?

  51. eco2geek says:

    I have a friend who started out his techie career as a Mac repair dude at a local computer shop in the late 80′s. The first thing they did when they got a computer in for repair was to back up the customer’s hard drive. Sometimes, they didn’t delete the backups (which became clear when he gave me an excess hard drive still full of some woman’s data).

    In other words, this practice has been going on since forever.

    Most of us don’t have anything illegal on our computers. But what about credit card numbers? Prescription information? Bank account data? Pictures of your nekkid…you get the idea. Do you want a stranger to have access to all that? I sure don’t.

    Long story short: If you don’t want a stranger snooping through your data, don’t take your computer into a shop for repair. (Or encrypt your data. Or take the hard drive out. Or get a geeky friend to come over and fix it. Or…)

  52. jwissick says:

    What afran303 is saying is correct. The Const is a limitation on .gov, not business. GS is not restrained by the Const.

    You have freedom of speech yes? But try to come into my store an use that free speech talking about anything I do not agree with. You will be thrown out quickly and there is isn’t jack you can do about it.

    Again, just to be clear, the Const does NOT limit what business can do, only what .gov can do.

  53. Antediluvian says:

    @SOhp101: I dunno about so-and-so being a prosecutor, but the above comment that the GS “obtained” “evidence” would be inadmissible is wrong. The above comment that the 4th amendment only applies to government actions against you, not those of private citizens, is correct.

    Think of it in these terms: the 1st amendment prevents the govt from abridging the right of assembly, and speech, and the press. It does not prevent a private citizen from doing those things:
    - Hey you kids, get off of my lawn! (stop assembling on my property)
    - No talking during the movie or we’ll escort you out (no free speech in a movie theater)
    - No, you may not handout those flyers in this mall (no freedom of the press on private property)

    However, courts have ruled many times that if the police actively seek to circumvent the protections of the Constitution by hiring a 3rd party to do their evidence gathering, the evidence is inadmissible.

    Obviously evidence gathered by a 3rd party on their own and turned over to the police is a different matter, and at the least would likely serve as the basis for a warrant.

  54. SOhp101 says:

    The issue of GS doing what is constitutionally right isn’t the issue, it’s if the evidence is actually admissible in court. No evidence that was obtained by unreasonable search, even if it was done by a private party, could be used as evidence in court, assuming that the person did not waive his rights.

    Not that it matters, since he pleaded guilty anyway.

  55. Jesse in Japan says:

    This is a matter of privacy.

    I don’t have any child pornography on my computer, but I do have some things that I don’t want anyone to see. Things that would be pretty embarrassing to me (and to others) if they were seen.

    There are people with child pornography on their computers, and they should be brought to justice. However, there are also many, many people who don’t have child pornography on their computers. For Geek Squad to take it upon themselves to search through every file on every computer that comes through their hands implies that every person who brings in a computer is a suspected pedophile. It’s a form of vigilante action. They violate everyone’s privacy to catch a few criminals.

    People keep very private files on their computers, and searching through them for child pornography is like reading through somebody’s diary to see if they’re planning to assassinate any public figures.

  56. Eric says:

    @anon

    You said:
    Think about this… if there are indeed people with child pornography getting work done at Geek Squad (and I can vouch that there are from my own experiences working there), Geek Squad keeps backups for about 3 months on their server.

    Why would you be keeping customer’s files on your server? That was expressly forbidden (I was a DCI until August ’06)! When you back-up data for a customer, it was never supposed to sit on a BBY owned computer.

  57. FreemanB says:

    As others have stated, the GS is not subject to the Constitution’s restrictions on searching the computer. Furthermore, once he turned his computer over to a repair service, he no longer had any reasonable expectation of privacy for the contents of that computer. No matter what service was being performed, at some point the computer would have to be accessed in order to determine if it was working. Many places also routinely perform virus scans and other maintenance that could easily lead to the accidental discovery of suspicious files.

    Furthermore, the article states that based on the information provided by GS, the police obtained a warrant and searched the offender’s computer and CDs. If they found CDs with images or videos burned onto them, that would be all the evidence they needed to conclude that the images weren’t planted. In cases like this, you not only search for files, but also evidence of when they were downloaded, burned to CD, etc. You also look at things like the browser history. The goal is to not only find the child porn, but evidence of when and how it was obtained. Based on that evidence, it would be clear who was actually searching and downloading the child porn. For a solid case, you want more than just the files.

  58. Pelagius says:

    I’m reminded of this PBF comic.

  59. Mr. Gunn says:

    yg17: I just want to make one point, because it seems that people, faced with a menace such as communism, terrorism, child porn, or whatever horror the future holds, always forget.

    Freedom and liberty, are always more important than preventing potential criminal behavior, no matter what the behavior. Don’t you think that the founders of the country knew that some people would use the assumption of privacy to hide horrible, repugnant activities? Don’t you think they would have said something to address that situation? Oh wait, they did. I think they addressed the “taking the law into your own hands” thing, too.

  60. Mr. Gunn says:

    Pelagius: LOL, Me too.

  61. whitespider says:

    You know. I wait for the story on snuff films. Children exploited on film, or grown adults killed on camera? You decide the stronger of the two evils. I’ve yet to hear a story on snuff videos getting anyone procecuted.

    But seriously.. I don’t think GS techs would complain this much to a 16 or 17 year old teenage girl changing on camera or nudie pictures of her. Get in their head. It would likely have taken some serious empathy towards a video of.. saaay, something of a very very young male or a very very young girl to get this sort of thing to happen with a tech? That is.. unless *gasp* the GS tech isn’t actually a 20-30 something year old and ~actually~ has morals towards pornography and the law!.. in which case, in all honesty it would likely have been someone with grey hair (the hair color being older than me). Or of the cloth? Heh, I tickle myself at the unlikliness.

    But hey.. who am I to say what a GS member would report and what he/she wouldn’t report.. it’s not like i’m a tech myself…

  62. A_B says:

    @SOhp101

    “No evidence that was obtained by unreasonable search, even if it was done by a private party, could be used as evidence in court …”

    Wrong. Please, just stop writing these comments because there are some people out there who might think you are correct.

    First, you’re misusing a term of art. There’s no such thing as an “unreasonable search” by a private party. The idea is wholly inapplicable.

    “Unreasonable search” is used within the context of the 4th Amendment. This amendment is inapplicable to private parties and, specifically, GS.

    Second, there may be criminal or civil liability stemming from, for example, breaking into somebody’s house. But if during the break-in, the burglar sees the homeowner killing somebody, that eyewitness testimony is fully admissible. You can try to impeach the witness, (Lawyer to the jury: “are you going to believe a burglar? He’s just trying to blame somebody else for the murder!”), but the evidence is still admissible despite the fact the burglar was breaking the law (it’s not clear if GS was breaking the law here).

    If you don’t believe me, here’s a link to a discussion of the Fourth Amendment:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Amendment_to_the_Unite

    The related doctrine of “fruit from the poisonous tree”:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fruit_of_the_poisonous_tree

    Do a Google search for “unreasonable search”, and you will see that the hits all make reference to the 4th Amendment, which, as I said, doesn’t apply to private parties.

    And the Federal Rules of Evidence, which many states are modeled after:
    http://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/fre/

    You will not find any support for your claim that this evidence would be inadmissible.

  63. Trai_Dep says:

    @Mr. Gunn: “people, faced with a menace such as communism, terrorism, child porn, or whatever horror the future holds, always forget…”

    Yup, that was going to be my point. Kiddy Porn is the excuse de jour for shredding our rights. Or Drugs (gasp: Crystal Meth!!).

    It’s not like the government is going to say, “We will watch you always, everywhere, to protect your from double parking.”

    And in our corporate welfare state, subcontracting to private parties is (or should be) the same thing as governmenal searches.

    And removing the presumption of privacy can be as effective as the government doing it themselves.

    So yeah, the gov’t loves this sh*t. Suck on that, you Conservatives that are defending this practice.

  64. Nygdan says:

    And, again, there are laws that require, for example, the peopel processing your film to review it, and turn you in if there is a crime depicted in it, as with child porn. Extending this to computer techs isn’t much of a stretch.

  65. IC18 says:

    I agree the sucker got what he deserved. However the GS overstepped their boundries. I will be dissuaded from bringing my PC to them simply becuase they are snopping my personal files, which poses a big identity theft risk.

  66. shdwsclan says:

    Thats why you keep a microwave and a powerful degausser handy….

    If they cops come to your house to retrieve you comp, booby trap it and when the degausser goes off, it will destroy anything with magnetic data…and then you can sue the cops for destroying sensitive equipment and not finding anything in the process, completely replacing any hardware lost in the ordeal…

  67. SOhp101 says:

    @A_B: Thanks for the info, looks like i’m completely incorrect. My apologies.

  68. liberor says:

    I have to agree that child porn is bad, and I understand the reasoning behind a Geek Squad employee turning someone in after finding it.

    My issue comes with the eventual handling of the case in court. My brother had the same thing happen to him as this gentleman did, except the child porn that was found on his computer wasn’t his. He didn’t download it, or take the pictures himself. Unfortunately, my brother was such a nice guy that he let anyone who needed to use his computer (which I know isn’t the smartest thing). Someone had evidentally downloaded it on his laptop, but he had no way of proving who did it or where he was when it was downloaded.

    The sad thing about all of this? The court decided that it WAS his porn, even though he had passed two separate lie-detector tests (that weren’t admissible in court). So he got kicked out of the Marines, spent every last penny he had on a useless lawyer, and eventually shot himself in the head.

    Thanks for snooping around my brother’s laptop, Geek Squad. Thanks for helping to ruin and eventually end my brother’s life.

  69. Evols says:

    Has anyone here ever ran a spyware removal scan and noticed filenames appear on the scan? There are many tools out there that scan the machine and display all the file names that it’s searching. If the guy on the Geek Squad noticed a suspicious filename, he would report it and he did not go searching for it at all.

    If the customer requested his files to be backed up and listed specific locations, the geek squad is going to copy over the files and notice filenames. You can’t just assume that as soon as a computer is brought in the first thing they look for his porn, there are lots of other ways to find child pornography on the machine.

  70. mongooseman1128 says:

    @Evols That is exactly correct. I worked for geek squad for two years and in that time we found two pedafiles. First one was found doing antivirus scans and the second during a data backup (that guy was as dumb as a box of rocks). Oh, and anyone asking how you can prove the file wasn’t planted; When a file is added to the computer an attribute it receives is the creation date. If that date is before the PC was brougt to GS than it was already there. This date is changeable, but that is in no way practical for an agent to modify.

  71. forensic_tech says:

    Considering the fact that time and date stamps can be altered with little effort and the their is now a cash award bounty for information on suspected owners of computer with illegal images on them there is nothing to keep an unethical computer tech from planting evidence to collect the bounty.

  72. John_Fii says:

    Considering the fact that as a Geek Squad Agent, we’ve found CP on people’s computers before, I assure you it’s a simple thing to see without “snooping” in people’s files.
    Take permissions for a drive, you see a long list of file names run by.
    Transferring data from the customer’s drive to an eternal for a backup, you see a lot of file names.
    What drew our attention in our case, was “6yr_old_takes_her_first_fucking.avi”. I made a note of it, and kept an eye on the file transfers. When I started seeing porn with the headers of 11yo, 13yo, 7yo, in my eyes, that means I morally should look, to see wtf is up.
    A thumbnail showed me more than I ever wanted to see.
    The agents in that case did what was right – its just your wicked hate-on for us that makes you paint it in a negative light.

  73. TechMan says:

    I happen to work at a computer repair shop. I can tell you that there are plenty of ways to find this stuff with out looking. I have found it myself many times and even got in the local paper ( [deseretnews.com] ). When you are looking for virus/spyware infections most scanners show you the file name you are currently scanning. When files whose title alone are revolting start flashing across the screen that’s when you call the cops. Definitely not snooping.

  74. UrsaAlcyone says:

    Trust me- I’m a lawyer!
    UNLESS GS acted at the direction of the state- there are no 4th amendment constitutional issues involved here. The Constitution is a check upon the power of the State.
    Secondly- while Perv could possibly have a civil complaint against GS for computer trespass (if the state recognizes such), it still does not rise to a violation of his 4th amendment rights by the state.
    Third- evidence “gathered” by a third party is NOT inadmissible, and I have no idea where such an idea got started. Evidence is admissible provided it is relevant, material, and its probative value outweights its prejudicial value. If it was discovered by police misconduct- then 4th amendment issues are involved. But note- there are many exceptions to the exclusionary rule.