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Cruiser's avatar

Do you consider this surveilance tactic of the FBI invasion of privacy or a necessary evil of our modern age?

Asked by Cruiser (40406points) March 10th, 2017

Apparently the FBI has been using Best Buy’s Geek Squad to routinely sift through the hard drives of customers who have brought in computers for repairs….any kind of repair. They are looking for suspicious criminal activity and have bust a lot of people for child porn.

To me this stands as an illegal unwarranted search….but apparently laws don’t apply to the FBI anymore. So what is your reaction to this? Do you consider this surveillance tactic invasion of privacy or a necessary evil of our modern age? Link to the story

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26 Answers

Patty_Melt's avatar

I picked up a used computer at a business upgrade sale once. When I got it onto the internet, LOTS of porn stuff did pop ups at me right away. It made me scared, wondering what the previous user had used it for.
It seems like if they could not prove origonal ownership their search practice would be circumstantial at best.
Even then, who is to say how many people had access to the machine?
Internet has brought a huge new wave of lawlessness to us, and some sort of means needs to be used to manage the new avenue for criminal activity.
I guess we have some trial and error to suffer until law enforcement can settle on their best tactics.
I do want them to make the effort to find ways to seek and punish. Maybe not all their ideas are popular, but at least they are not hopelessly surrendering.

elbanditoroso's avatar

A bit of both. Yes, it is an invasion of privacy, and it ought to be illegal.

The fault lies with BestBuy and their employees, who should have the spine to stand up for civil liberties.

But to answer the second part of the question – the FBI (or other agency of your choice) has amassed so much power that they feel that the laws are not for them to follow.

SergeantQueen's avatar

As much as I love seeing pedophiles being put behind bars, I don’t think you can spy on citizens in hopes of finding a pedophile. By doing that, you are invading thousands of people’s rights. Even the ones that are pedophiles. They also have rights (sadly)
It’s a waste of time, also. Getting a warrant ensures that they have probable cause for the search and they aren’t just doing it as a precautionary thing. Why waste time searching my computer when you won’t find anything on it no matter what? I get that the FBI technically doesn’t know who has illegal stuff on their computer unless they were shown or have reasons to believe that, and that’s why they shouldn’t be able to just go and search any computers they want. Because they don’t know.

Irukandji's avatar

I consider it an invasion of privacy and a violation of the Fourth Amendment. A lot of people are waving this off on the grounds that we already knew it was happening, which is true. But that’s not a good reason to ignore the violation. It’s a reason to have been pissed off all along. Politicians aren’t worried about being held accountable to the voters anymore, though. They’re more afraid of the intelligence agencies they’ve spent decades building up.

Knowledge is power, and they liked it when that power was on their side. But now the FBI participates in elections by selectively releasing information only to later say there’s nothing to it, and the CIA feuds with presidential administrations while suggesting it has access to embarrassing and potentially treasonous data that it for some reason doesn’t feel the need to release. Behold the military-industrial complex in all its glory.

Someone needs to teach these guys that just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

filmfann's avatar

Wow! That’s quite the over reach.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I don’t know guys. What if, in going through your next door neighbor’s computer, they found porn or a lot of odd pictures of your child while they’re playing in your yard next door?

SergeantQueen's avatar

Couldn’t all the evidence risk getting thrown out because they obtained it illegally?
I wouldn’t want to risk letting a pedophile go because the FBI found the evidence illegally. Especially if it were my kid.
A lawyer could easily get a case thrown out if the evidence is obtained without a search warrant/probable cause. But maybe I’m wrong. The FBI could possibly override that.
If it was a normal police officer who illegally found the picture, not an FBI agent it’d probably work out the way I said earlier, with the evidence being thrown out. But the FBI is a higher branch so they probably would find a way to get around that. Who knows. Still a risk.

Cruiser's avatar

@SergeantQueen What I gathered from the article they are only using Geek to ID porn perps and the FBI then can use their time honored sleuth tools to “legally” get the goods on the pervs.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I think if they found it by “accident” it’s admissible. Or what Cruiser said.

filmfann's avatar

Have you ever gone through your computer’s memory, and looked at all the pictures your computer saves?
For example, if you’re reading this, or if you scrolled right passed my comments, your hard drive now has Butters on there.
Think about it. The worst pics anyone on your Facebook page ever posted that you scrolled passed are a permanent part of your hard drive. Are you responsible for that? Will the FBI be understanding?

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’m sure they know a pattern when they see it, and not just random, occasional accidental clicks.

But seriously…what if Best Buy found compromising pictures of your kids on your neighbor’s computer. Wouldn’t you want it reported and the guy shot?

Irukandji's avatar

@Dutchess_III Just because I want something doesn’t make it the right thing to do. I’d like to slowly flay Michael Vick and everyone else who abuses animals with a rusty spoon. Does that mean I should do it if I get the chance? The justice system is a substitute for the brutal regime of vengeance that occurs in the state of nature. It’s not always satisfying, but not all desires ought to be satisfied.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@filmfann your computer isn’t going to keep a log of everything you see or don’t see on your FB page. I think it will keep a log of what you interact with though, if you like something, comment on it. But I’m not sure. Seems like that would tear up your memory.

kritiper's avatar

Ask not what the FBI might do to you, ask what you can do for the FBI.

Zaku's avatar

It’s not “a necessary evil of our modern age.” It’s one of many opportunities for horrifyingly invasive violations of privacy. In some cases these be effective ways to do some things that are good. But they are also gross violations and power grabs in ways that certainly violates most people’s expectations and desires for some level of privacy.

These sorts of tactics, and others, can certainly be used for all sorts of wicked and terrible purposes as well. Want to blackmail someone? Got access to their old computer files, emails, things they printed, etc? Have mountains of financial resources and want to influence politicians? Hmm, if only the government were stockpiling tons of digital info on practically everyone, and you could influence people to give you that info so you can blackmail people.

The more power that is available out there, the more important it is that our government be free from corruption and only doing good. Oh no… too bad it’s extremely corrupt and full of dubious agendas.

ucme's avatar

The eff-bee-aye have no powers here so I couldn’t give a shite

MrGrimm888's avatar

Intelligence gathering agencies have ALWAYS used unethical means to monitor everyone from worst enemies, to greatest allies. It’s only the technology that has changed, not their ideology.

I would categorize it as a double edged sword.

Surely they get valuable information,but at the cost of the freedoms they aim to protect…

I put it in the “things I have no power over” box….

Patty_Melt's avatar

I don’t understand the big huff. You take your stuff in to be serviced, and don’t expect the geeks to snoop a little, then you’re a bonehead.
Men in black are not standing over the geeks watching them giggle over your stuff. They only report stuff they find which looks suspicious.

tinyfaery's avatar

Only if we are in a Communist country and the KGB is our police force. Oh…wait.

Why do we bother with the Constitution anymore? So much of it is ignored in the name of “safety”.

We all know this quote “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

It is an evil, but not necessary.

johnpowell's avatar

https://corporate.bestbuy.com/statement-case-united-states-america-vs-mark-albert-rettenmaier/

Best Buys response.

And 20 years ago when I worked at a photolab. I called the police a tons of times to report people that were having kiddie porn go from 35MM to CD. Do you consider it wrong that I reported what I saw when people willingly gave me their data?

Zaku's avatar

@Patty_Melt The article is not talking about techies accidentally noticing child porn and reporting it to the FBI.

“evidence demonstrates company employees routinely snooped for the agency, contemplated “writing a software program” specifically to aid the FBI in rifling through its customers’ computers without probable cause for any crime that had been committed, and were “under the direction and control of the FBI.””

The tactic extends to other “crimes” and searching unallocated space which might not even be data users knew about, especially if it’s browser cache and/or they had a second-hand drive or computer, or it could be material they deleted. If, as with wiretapping, massive amounts of data are stored and processed for later, then any time any prosecutor or blackmailer with access to the data needs something to charge someone with, they’ll potentially have ridiculous access to all sorts of crap from computers associated with them.

johnpowell's avatar

The source is click-bait. ocweekly is not a legit source. Cruiser thinks Breitbart is the real news.

FOUND IT…

https://www.fluther.com/199071/how-will-the-white-house-justify-excluding-news-networks-selectively/#quip3347727

“Sorry @Tropical_Willie Breitbart was a breath of fresh air during the BS Liberal news crap fest that occurred during the Obama years and strongly disagree with your labeling of Breitbart as Alt-Right. You seem to thrive on ad hominem attacks of anything Republican or conservative. You are entitled to not have an original thought.”

You consider Breitbart news… We can think you are dumb.

kritiper's avatar

@johnpowell (standing ovation)

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

To finish my initial post (problems maintaining internet connection):

It is both, but security agencies’ snooping should never be done without prior argument for probable cause and completing the search warrant process adjudicated by a member of the judiciary. Anything otherwise is the definition of a police state.

It has become evident over the years that the people of this nation are the only institution in the US that can guarantee that these invasions of citizen privacy are kept within constitutional boundaries. If the people of this country don’t stand up and insist that the warrant process—which has until recent years involved arguments before a judge for probable cause prior to investigative action—is carried out in every single instance of privacy invasion, then they lose their right to privacy, because the judicial and legislative branches of our government don’t seem interested in abiding by our own constitution.

Patty_Melt's avatar

@Zaku, who said anything about finding things by accident? Not I. I said anybody who takes there stuff to be serviced and thinks nobody snoops into their stuff is a bonehead.
Sure they take peeks at people’s stuff. I’m not condoning it, I am simply saying it can be expected.
The FBI are not there watching every move, or even any move. They are being tipped by geeks about who is doing things.

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