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Geek Squad turns gynecologic oncologist's image over to the FBI

"Geek Squad does not work for the FBI and never has," said a spokesperson for Best Buy, which owns the Geek Squad. Instead, the company says, it only turns over materials to the FBI when a crime is inadvertently discovered.

It seems the Geek Squad may not be the best resource for determining what is criminal, as one man found out when he was accused of possessing child pornography. All he had done was take his computer in for service and he found himself charged with a serious crime.

You may be wondering if it's legal for Geek Squad to turn over your private information to law enforcement. The answer is generally yes -- unless the two are working in cahoots.

Typically, if the government performs an unreasonable search and seizure, no evidence they obtain can be used against the defendant. The government isn't allowed to benefit from its own illegal behavior, and searches have to be reasonable to be constitutional.

When a private party performs an unreasonable search, though, there may be no taint on the evidence. In such cases, the evidence is usually admissible.

That was the case here, unfortunately for the defendant. Although the federal judge has found in at least one other case that there was action directly in concert between Best Buy analysts and the FBI, that wasn't enough to scrap the evidence in this case. That was because the man was essentially warned; Geek Squad's paperwork warns consumers that evidence of illegal acts may be turned over to the authorities.

What got the evidence suppressed in this case?

For one thing, the image was found in "unallocated space" on the man's hard drive, which can only be reached via specialized tools. The man may have been entirely unaware it was there.

The ABA Journal discussed the case after the federal judge issued his ruling verbally, and there isn't any clear description of the photo Geek Squad found. However, the defendant is a gynecologic oncologist, so it's possible the so-called pornographic image was actually of scientific value.

The judge said that the description of the image in the search warrant application was misleading, so the search warrant was not obtained legally.

He also pointed out that the image wasn't actually child pornography.

The prosecutor is awaiting a written ruling before determining its next steps.

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