It sounds as if some of the Geek squad members were acting on behalf of the government, and could, therefore, be considered government agents. If so, given what they did, a court could determine that it was a violation of a person's 4th amendment rights. But when it comes to child pornography issues, the law is often bent to protect children.
More details from EFF.
Who knows if those geeks would turn it into a profitable enterprise by planting some lost emails or anything else the FBI wants on someone's drive and then turn them in.
At $500 a pop, it wouldn't be beyond the realm of possibility. Unbelievable this was able to continue for as long as reports indicate.
It wasn't even a matter of the FBI initiating investigations of particular people.
These investigations were initiated by the geeks, themselves, who even examined deleted files on hard drives in their efforts to find illegal documents.
Even a first year law student could get such charges dismissed for chain-of-custody reasons. If the geeks get rewarded for finding illegal documents they certainly have the skills to manufacture such evidence and plant it there.
If the Geeks were acting on their own behalf, and not at the behest of the FBI, then the question as to whether a person's fourth amendment rights were violated doesn't arise, for as I understand it, only the government, or and agent acting on behalf of the government, can violate a person's fourth amendment rights. If the Geeks happen upon what they think is child pornography, they are required by several states to report it, which is not a violation of the 4th in that the states did not do anything in violation of the 4th.
Wow I think they will lose many customers.
Just to add: "The California OB/GYN was indicted in 2014 on counts of possession, but the judge threw the case out because, among other reasons, Rettenmaier's hard drive was searched by Geek Squad and the FBI before they received a warrant to do so, making their findings unusable as evidence."
[url=https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/02/FBI-tries-to-bypass-Fourth-Amendment-Safeguards-by-using-Geek-Squad]The federal appeals court covering California and other western states has ruled that determining whether a party is a state or private actor comes down to two elements: (1) whether government officials knew of and agreed to the intrusive search and (2) whether the party conducting the search intended to assist law enforcement or further her own ends.
Under this rubric, the FBI's Geek Squad informants should plainly qualify as agents of the government. The records disclosed thus far indicate that FBI agents paid Geek Squad informants to conduct these wide-ranging searches of customers' devices, suggesting that officials both knew about the searches and directed the informants to conduct them. The payments Geek Squad informants received also demonstrate that they conducted the searches with the intent to assist the FBI.[/url]
Yes, at least certain Geeks satisfied conditions 1&2 and this is probably why the judge threw out the CP/Doctor case. One would think the government would have known that this behavior would not stand up in court---yet one wonders how many, if any, people have been convicted via this FBI/Best Buy arrangement. No wonder Best Buy sought to distance themselves from the 4 employees who got paid.
If rewards for evidence are advertised by law enforcement, then do members of the public who decide to look for that evidence also become agents of the government and are then subject to the 4th amendment?
I think not. I lack the legal expertise to answer, and the desire to read 500 pages to find one, but I have a hunch that if the government advertised $10,000 for information leading to an arrest, and 5 million people were aware of this reward and were keeping their eyes peeled, none of them would be considered agents of the government because the government did not specifically ask any one person to act on their, the government's, behalf. If I'm standing in line at the Post Office and notice that there is a reward listed on a wanted poster pinned to the wall for information about the guy standing in front of me who is a dead look a like for the guy on the poster, and it turns out, after I notified the authorities, that they are one in the same, I doubt that I would be considered an agent of the government, or as acting on behalf of the government. Thus, I think there would have to be a clear request and specific relationship between an individual and the government before one could be considered an agent.
You are correct, but in this case, there are reports that requests were made from FBI to at least one BB Supervisor