“Geek Squad” has a whole new meaning…

Project Safe Childhood, is a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. The project uses federal, state and local resources to locate and prosecute individuals who exploit children through the Internet. (Source).

According to Grant Gross’ IDG News Service article, a U.S. motivational speaker who took his laptop computer to a Best Buy store for service has been sentenced to 11 years and three months in prison for transporting child pornography, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday. (Source)

According to the Department of Justice,

Fortino frequently traveled across the country as a self-employed author, speaker and media personality, often bringing his laptop with him. He took his laptop to a Fayetteville, Arkansas, Best Buy Co. store in November 2005 after he found that it was not working properly.

According to the article,

Best Buy computer technicians discovered several images of what they believed to be child pornography and alerted local police. A forensic review of Fortino’s computer by the Fayetteville Police Department found that he had visited Web sites containing child pornography on multiple occasions and often saved images from those sites to his computer, the DOJ said. Police found hundreds of child pornography images on the laptop, as well as several video files from a hidden video camera Fortino had placed in a bedroom on his personal boat, the DOJ said.

Now I don’t have an issue with this defendant pleading guilty to the charges and being sentenced to 11 years in prison for his crime. That doesn’t disturb me a bit. I am all for protecting children and the prosecution of those who knowingly and/or intentionally seek, view, display, disseminate or create such materials.

The issue I have is with the Best Buy Geek Squad searching this man’s computer. Who else’s computers have been searched without the owners knowing? If we deputize local computer repair guys as government agents to search through people’s files, what does that mean? Doesn’t that make them government actors, especially if they are working in coordination with local and national law enforcement as informants in “Project Safe Childhood”? If that’s the case, and these people are agents of law enforcement, where’s the probable cause for the search?

Now, it seems from the evidence and information presented in the article that Fortino knew and intended to do what he did. But, in this day and age where so much information flies though the internet any bit of unsolicited, and illegal information, could end up on one’s computer. Any one of us could wind up in this same position if a computer repair geek guesses wrong about the age of a model on one of our hard drives. Even more so, deputizing the repair guy to be extra eyes and ears of the government could spill over into obscenity prosecutions, or even anti government info? This form of enforcement is not limited to investigations of child pornography and it flies in the face of the 4th Amendment. Where does it end?


6 responses to ““Geek Squad” has a whole new meaning…

  • Modeling » “Geek Squad” has a whole new meaning…

    […] azzeso1917 wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptAccording to Grant Gross’ IDG News Service article, a US motivational speaker who took his laptop computer to a Best Buy store for service has been sentenced to 11 years and three months in prison for transporting child pornography, … […]

  • Michelle

    I think that this has become a “big brother is always watching you” sort of issue. Has big brother become so out of the loop on issues that a person privacy is no longer safe. what I do within my own home is my business and it makes me want to become more fluent in computers so that I won’t have to take my computer in to any store.

  • RatherNotSay

    I’m an ex-Best Buy employee, and worked at, believe or not, the exact Best Buy in Fayetteville, AR this article was talking about (though it was a few years before the whole Fortino thing, and it was before the “tech bay” was converted to “Geek Squad.”)

    I know the techs had a habit of collecting media off customer machines and dumping it all to their own in-store server. They had a HUGE MP3 collection from doing just that. Sometimes after closing, they would come across some comedy video, and play it on a rather large screen for us to watch as we cleaned.

    As far as I’m aware about this location, most of those same techs still work there, thus were probably involved in the whole thing. I assume they have a habit of searching for certain kinds of media on every machine brought in.

    Oh, and by the way, I quit that place…because I disagreed with how they treated customers.

  • Sheila Pastore

    I agree that the he got what he deserved for his crime. Anyone who exploits children are very sick individuals and I’m glad he got caught from that aspect but the way it happened is not fair. I believe this is a violation of the 4th amendment and there shouldn’t have been a probable cause for the search.

  • Jeri Harms

    I feel that if a person has been committing crimes, especially if the crimes involve children, the “criminal” deserves the punishment no matter how the crimes become evident (i.e., how they are caught in the act). Also, I do not believe that this case infringes on the 4th Amendment right. Fortino’s computer was not seized or looked at while in his possession. Once he took his property and left it with the store, he forfeited his right to privacy. As to the question of the Geek Squad person being “deputized” to act for the government, how is this different from teachers or day care providers calling authorities when they suspect child abuse? I believe that we all have a duty to report any criminal activity and to look out for people who cannot protect themselves (children, elderly, handicapped)no matter where the crime is committed. The police cannot be everywhere and know all! Maybe if more people took this seriously, alot of crime could be stopped. Why is everyone so afraid of their rights to privacy if they are not committing crimes! Do they have something to hide?

  • ISPs: The police on the internet streets… « Entertainment Law

    […] October 21, 2008 Some time ago, I wrote about the “Geek Squad” from Best Buy acting as agents for law enforcement and monitoring the data on customers’ computers when they brought their machines in for servicing. (See “Geek Squad” has whole new meaning… from October 4, 2007). […]

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