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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

How to kill your business

Why would you EVER take your computer to the Geek Squad, knowing that the FBI is paying them to inform on their customers?
Law enforcement has a number of informants working for it and the companies that already pay their paychecks, like UPS, for example. It also has a number of government employees working for the TSA, keeping their eyes peeled for "suspicious" amounts of cash it can swoop in and seize.

Unsurprisingly, the FBI also has a number of paid informants. Some of these informants apparently work at Best Buy -- Geek Squad by day, government informants by… well, also by day.

According to court records, Geek Squad technician John "Trey" Westphal, an FBI informant, reported he accidentally located on Rettenmaier's computer an image of "a fully nude, white prepubescent female on her hands and knees on a bed, with a brown choker-type collar around her neck." Westphal notified his boss, Justin Meade, also an FBI informant, who alerted colleague Randall Ratliff, another FBI informant at Best Buy, as well as the FBI. Claiming the image met the definition of child pornography and was tied to a series of illicit pictures known as the "Jenny" shots, agent Tracey Riley seized the hard drive.

Not necessarily a problem, considering companies performing computer/electronic device repair are legally required to report discovered child porn to law enforcement. The difference here is the paycheck. This Geek Squad member had been paid $500 for digging around in customers' computers and reporting his findings to the FBI. That changes the motivation from legal obligation to a chance to earn extra cash by digging around in files not essential to the repair work at hand.

More of a problem is the FBI's tactics. While it possibly could have simply pointed to the legal obligation Best Buy has to report discovered child porn, it proactively destroyed this argument by apparently trying to cover up the origin of its investigation, as well as a couple of warrantless searches.

Setting aside the issue of whether the search of Rettenmaier's computer constituted an illegal search by private individuals acting as government agents, the FBI undertook a series of dishonest measures in hopes of building a case, according to James D. Riddet, Rettenmaier's San Clemente-based defense attorney. Riddet says agents conducted two additional searches of the computer without obtaining necessary warrants, lied to trick a federal magistrate judge into authorizing a search warrant, then tried to cover up their misdeeds by initially hiding records.

The "private search" issue is mentioned briefly in OC Weekly's report, but should be examined more closely. Private searches are acceptable, but the introduction of cash payments, as well as the FBI having an official liaison with Best Buy suggests the searches aren't really "private." Instead, the FBI appears to be using private searches to route around warrant requirements. That's not permissible and even the FBI's belief that going after the "worst of worst" isn't going to be enough to salvage these warrantless searches.
One would think they are unaware of how Americans have learned that a justifiable use of a dangerous tactic always leads to unjustifiable uses of it. It's one thing for there to be a mechanism for reporting this sort of thing when evidence of egregious criminal wrongdoing is encountered, but it is absolutely something else entirely when private services are compensated and incentivized to hunt for it, or worse, create it.

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74 Comments:

Blogger dc.sunsets January 17, 2017 11:11 AM  

Question: Was this targeted by the FBI or does BB's Geek Squad routinely run forensic software on HD's?

I'm no expert, but running a program that would scan drives for ghost data ("deleted" but not erased, or sectors overwritten too few times to obscure) looking for keywords or even image files matching certain parameters would be trivially simple. We all know that wiping a HD clean of any embarrassing or private (e.g., financial) data is almost impossible, given how HD's normally reuse sectors non-sequentially (which is why file fragmentation occurs.)

Also, any PC physically in contact with GS could easily have illegal images or data planted.

CGI is well and truly in the courtroom now, just as is the nightmare of "Touch DNA."
http://www.vdare.com/articles/michelle-malkin-forensic-nightmare-of-touch-dna-blm-an-innocent-man-in-jail

All the institutions of the state on which we're taught to depend are collapsing right before our eyes.

Blogger Alexander January 17, 2017 11:11 AM  

Sure, but a big box store that sells identical copies of easily researched items as well as hard copy media is an essential brick-and-mortar business. Can't see a readily available substitute for Best Buy anytime soon...

Blogger Eric Mueller January 17, 2017 11:12 AM  

The only time I ever used Geek Squad was around 2008 when a motherboard failed and I had a warranty. Other than that, I'm capable of doing my own troubleshooting/repair or replacing of computers.

Odds are, I'm better trained and more experienced than Geek Squad anyway.

Anonymous VFM#1819 January 17, 2017 11:18 AM  

If only they paid pizza joint employees to inform, then we might actually make a dent in the number of true freaks defiling and raping children. But then, the people doing the sickest shit in D.C. pizza joints are the same who make the policy to go after these small fish once or twice a year in what amounts to pure public relation busts.

Blogger dc.sunsets January 17, 2017 11:18 AM  

@3 Two of my sons' on-campus job was fixing PC's for the residence halls (students' and employees' machines.) It's good to have experts in the family. (Wish I had a plumber and an electrician, too, though one of them also is a fair auto mechanic.)

Our "Future Shock" world is now massively too complex for the vast majority of people. The minuteness of the division of labor appears to have hit the point of diminishing returns.

Blogger The Other Robot January 17, 2017 11:19 AM  

And is this another recipe for how to kill your company? Muh Diversity

Blogger Publius January 17, 2017 11:19 AM  

Former Geek Squad employee here. It is *highly* likely that the employee in question was deliberately digging for the material, looking to earn that money.

Geek Squad uses a tool called MRI, closest thing on the market would be something like Ultimate Boot Disk. It's a customized distro of Windows (Vista when I was there) that is loaded with diagnostic and repair tools. You boot into it from a DVD and work on the computer from that.

Most of the repairs that Geek Squad does are automated, requiring little more than telling the automated programs to run. That said, sometimes you do have to work on specific files for some of the more advanced viruses that can infect a computer, but when doing this, typically you are dealing with rooting around for hidden files, manually deleting the remnants of virus/adware programs. Maybe trying to recover lost files by using shadow copies, stuff like that.

However, MRI does not allow you to (at least I never saw a way) to actually view files, it just lets you manipulate them. In order to view the photo, the employee would have had to boot the computer up normally, and deliberately root around looking for stuff, I don't see any other way this could have happened.

Side note: Geek Squad pays peanuts and Best Buy corporate routinely slashes hours and dumps extra crap on them to deal with. Five hundred dollars was almost two weeks take home pay for me when I was there, that's a powerful and relatively cheap carrot for the FBI to dangle.

Blogger James Dixon January 17, 2017 11:25 AM  

> Odds are, I'm better trained and more experienced than Geek Squad anyway.

Almost certainly.

Blogger dc.sunsets January 17, 2017 11:27 AM  

Geek Squad is deep-sniffing your PC.
Your doctor is putting the most intensely personal details of your health in a nearly-public electronic database searchable by thousands and hackable by probably everyone.
Your cell phone tracks your every move, saving a permanent record of its location.
Your bank peruses the totality of your activity, looking for anything remotely suspicious.
Your kids' school employees note every anomaly in bruises, injuries or behavior looking for abuse.
Every purchase you make that is not in person in cash eventually is aggregated into a database from which your life can be reconstructed like a retinal scan.
Your ISP records your browsing history and searches, possibly forever.

We truly live in a panopticon. Trump's administration won't change that one tiny bit. It has a life of its own.

Blogger LonestarWhacko January 17, 2017 11:31 AM  

Well, anyone with commonsense isn't surprised. Thing is, I believe this has been going on as long as there have been computer geeks. Selling info is big biz, right?

Blogger S. Misanthrope January 17, 2017 11:32 AM  

No fair, I had to report child porn or abuse when I worked in a photo lab and the FBI never paid me no $500!

Blogger Doom January 17, 2017 11:34 AM  

You damn well know those new age pilgrims, and their hate for middle class or more white guys, with their liberal and queer bent, will manufacture crimes for a dime on any given day. I don't always like the results of the rule of law, it's just the best way. This ain't it.

Anonymous LurkingPuppy January 17, 2017 11:35 AM  

Publius wrote:However, MRI does not allow you to (at least I never saw a way) to actually view files, it just lets you manipulate them. In order to view the photo, the employee would have had to boot the computer up normally, and deliberately root around looking for stuff, I don't see any other way this could have happened.
Or he could have planted the evidence for the extra $500. No one who wants to see or possess child pornography has only a single image.

Blogger Jeff the Baptist January 17, 2017 11:35 AM  

Why would you EVER take your computer to the Geek Squad, knowing that the FBI is paying them to inform on their customers?

Because they're literally the only electronics repair place where I live. All the local mom & pops have closed up shop.

Blogger Mountain Man January 17, 2017 11:39 AM  

Sadly, this expose will probably have very little impact on the masses purchasing decisions. After all the bulk ( and girth ) of most of them believe " Nothing to hide..Nothing to fear".
Looking at the amount of time most spent on Fakebook.. they really do believe that mantra.

Blogger Cail Corishev January 17, 2017 11:39 AM  

To back up what Publius said, maintenance and troubleshooting work is very rarely going to require you to look at user files. It's just not useful. Even if you need to back up a user's files to transfer them to another disk, you're going to back them up as entire directories, and never even see individual filenames, let alone contents.

(In fact, most computer guys will tell you: if you work on a computer for a friend or family member, don't go poking around out of curiosity, because you might learn things you didn't want to know.)

So they were paying these guys to spend extra time just poking around. Which also means, if they weren't clocking their fixing time separate from the poking-around time, customers might have been paying to have their own privacy violated.

Anonymous ZhukovG January 17, 2017 11:39 AM  

Perhaps we should pay Firemen by the fire. We can let them sell fire insurance on the side.

OpenID basementhomebrewer January 17, 2017 11:43 AM  

This is just one of the secret uses of "private searches". The more nefarious one is what the government requires banks to report on their customers.

The 4th amendment is well and truly dead because some "clever" bureaucrats have discovered they can force the private sector to do their searches for them through regulations. MPAI, so no one complains as long as it doesn't jam up their lives.

Anonymous Full-Fledged Fiasco January 17, 2017 11:44 AM  

Off topic: Infogalactic should fix this shit.

Blogger DCThrowback January 17, 2017 11:50 AM  

Question: was best buy made aware of this arrangement beforehand, or are these deals being done w/o the knowledge of the corporate entity?

OpenID basementhomebrewer January 17, 2017 11:55 AM  

DCThrowback wrote:Question: was best buy made aware of this arrangement beforehand, or are these deals being done w/o the knowledge of the corporate entity?

Good question. I would think they would have had to approve or else they have a slew of employees that are likely in violation of customer privacy and conflict of interest policies.

Anonymous Jack Amok January 17, 2017 12:00 PM  

Westphal notified his boss, Justin Meade, also an FBI informant, who alerted colleague Randall Ratliff, another FBI informant at Best Buy...

Sounds like a Klan rally.

Blogger Cail Corishev January 17, 2017 12:08 PM  

The article says "the FBI having an official liaison with Best Buy," which to me means Best Buy signed off on it. If you think about it, they'd have to. Otherwise the FBI would be paying Best Buy's employees to falsify their work records, and causing Best Buy to charge customers for time spent on work they didn't ask for.

Not that the FBI wouldn't do that, but I'm sure it was far simpler to bring the Best Buy execs in on the program and present it as sort of a bonus system for employees.

Blogger pyrrhus January 17, 2017 12:09 PM  

@13 Yes, sadly, the planting of kiddy porn on computers is known to be in the arsenal of various Federal agencies. Which is another reason why these paid private searches should be outlawed...

Blogger MadMax 1861 January 17, 2017 12:11 PM  

@9"Your ISP records your browsing history and searches, possibly forever."
The large ISPs seem to store that data for up to 18 months.

https://torrentfreak.com/how-long-does-your-isp-store-ip-address-logs-120629/

Blogger Nate January 17, 2017 12:18 PM  

Americans are to binary to care about this. They will simply see anyone complaining about it as siding with child molesters.

Blogger S. Thermite January 17, 2017 12:19 PM  

Read the full article last week, and for those without the time or inclination to do the same, the details of how the image was found and used are even worse:

"the alleged "Jenny" image was found on unallocated "trash" space, meaning it could only be retrieved by "carving" with costly, highly sophisticated forensics tools...a federal appellate court unequivocally declared in February 2011 (USA v. Andrew Flyer) that pictures found on unallocated space did not constitute knowing possession because it is impossible to determine when, why or who downloaded them...In hopes of overcoming this obstacle, [the FBI] performed a sleight-of-hand maneuver, according to Riddet. The agents simply didn't alert Judge Marc Goldman that the image in question had been buried in unallocated space and, thus, secured deceitful authorization for a February 2012 raid on Rettenmaier's Laguna Niguel residence."

Blogger pyrrhus January 17, 2017 12:20 PM  

@1 Wow, thanks for the link dc.sunsets.....Looks like "touch DNA" could be the new version of rigged lineup identification, so beloved of the cops before the courts finally shut it down.

Blogger Gordon January 17, 2017 12:22 PM  

I doubt BB corporate was aware of the "rewards." They're savvy enough to know that is bad juju. Now the "incentivising," yeah, that's definitely possible. And if an FBI agent needed a good hit because review time was coming, well....

I once worked for a third-party company Best Buy paid to come in and do store audits. These were quite long and detailed, sometimes taking two days. Among the tasks was looking behind the Geek precinct counter. This was after the first big GS porn copying scandal. There were usually about 5 USB drives permitted in the precinct, all labeled and numbered. These probably had the special software Publius described. If I saw any other USB drives at all, it was a huge fail.

Still, the agents knew I was in the store before I did their inspection, so it would be no big deal to hide a personal USB. I've always assumed that any agent looking at my computer would look at any photos. But at least BB corporate was trying.

One other Geek Squad story: I was doing an audit and noted from a distance that the Agent in Charge was talking to a gal, and both were kind of weepy. When I went to check the precinct, I asked the AIC what happened. She said the gal had had some nasty problem that ran up a $380 ticket to repair. The gal was living on a very tight budget that did not include that kind of money. So the laptop had been sitting in the store for a few months. The AIC had called the gal, and said "look, can you afford $100?" The customer could, and I saw the laptop being returned with both gals emotional. If you live on a very tight budget and your link to the world is gone, well, getting it back is a big, big deal. Reports that I got a little misty myself are exaggerated, of course.

Anonymous Athor Pel January 17, 2017 12:35 PM  

"29. Blogger Gordon January 17, 2017 12:22 PM
...
One other Geek Squad story: I was doing an audit and noted from a distance that the Agent in Charge was talking to a gal, and both were kind of weepy. When I went to check the precinct, I asked the AIC what happened. She said the gal had had some nasty problem that ran up a $380 ticket to repair. The gal was living on a very tight budget that did not include that kind of money. So the laptop had been sitting in the store for a few months. The AIC had called the gal, and said "look, can you afford $100?" The customer could, and I saw the laptop being returned with both gals emotional. If you live on a very tight budget and your link to the world is gone, well, getting it back is a big, big deal. Reports that I got a little misty myself are exaggerated, of course.
"



Wow, that was fast.

How much does Best Buy pay you?

Blogger Dirk Manly January 17, 2017 12:39 PM  

Well, you see, (Mis-)Correct the Record is now defunct, but these apologists for evil have to do SOMETHING...

Anonymous Azimus January 17, 2017 12:41 PM  

This is going to be a steeply uphill rhetorical battle if we're turning our guns on paid child porn informants. I pass.

Blogger Gordon January 17, 2017 12:46 PM  

Athor Pel wrote:
How much does Best Buy pay you?


They don't, and never have. Any work I did in a Best Buy store was for a third party. And the third party for which I did audits fired me, rather unjustly in my opinion, because some Best Buy people told them to. So I carry no water for that company.

And yet the people who work there are human, and are capable of human kindness. Imagine that. Also, imagine not impugning someone without evidence.

Blogger Cecil Henry January 17, 2017 1:03 PM  

Yeah, this is the problem.

While everyone is opposed to child pornography and exploitation, what is the first thing to happen when mere presence of child pornography on a computer will get you prosecuted??

Answer: Enemies, political or otherwise, attempt to hack computer networks and place such illegal contents on hard drives.

Wait and then attack when the moment is right. Its happened.

Blogger Cail Corishev January 17, 2017 1:05 PM  

It sounds like Best Buy is being impugned with evidence to me. If your point is that Not All Geek Squaddies Are Like That, I'm sure everyone here already knew that because we're not stupid, but that's irrelevant.

Blogger Gordon January 17, 2017 1:12 PM  

Cail Corishev,

Note I do not defend the company or the agents, Geek or FBI. Athor Pel impugned me.

Blogger Publius January 17, 2017 1:13 PM  

It's foolish to slap all Geek Squad employees with the same rhetorical brush. Some are there because they needed a job that had flexible hours and Geek Squad pays above minimum wage.

Best Buy does their very best to destroy Geek Squad morale and cohesion, pays them peanuts, and offers zero recognition or development. My Geek Squad manager was pathologically depressed and drank like a fish, and most of my fellow agents were trying to find any job that was in IT and paid even 30k a year.

You have some agents that hate their job, some that love it, some that want to burn the place down, and some that are just their until they can find something better.

As I said before, a few hundred dollars would be a powerful incentive for an agent to search actively for child porn, and have the added advantage of feeling like you were actually doing something meaningful.

That doesn't mean for a moment that I agree with their actions, just that I understand their motivations.

As regarding the above discussion, I frequently did work for free, if forced to charge, I kept it at 15 dollars and I resisted any attempt to milk a customer for unneeded work.

Blogger Bodo Staron January 17, 2017 1:13 PM  

Reminds me of the time the Indian government thought it's a great idea to get rid the cobra overpopulation by paying people for dead cobras.

You can imagine the outcome.

Anonymous Athor Pel January 17, 2017 1:14 PM  

" Gordon January 17, 2017 12:46 PM
...
Also, imagine not impugning someone without evidence.
"




You're addressing multiple generations of people steeped in every level of marketing spin, journalistic manipulation and government psyops.

None of us need material evidence beyond our own eyes as we all see the public relations spin potential of your first comment, wonderful heart-touching story that it was. Only a real mean person bereft of the milk of human kindness could ever question the motive behind such a story being told in a comment thread on this particular topic.

Hence the effectiveness of the spin inherent in your just-so story.

It doesn't matter if you are genuine or not. The well is poisoned.

Here, I'll spell it out.
If you're a liar doing public relations work then you just got outed.
If you're story is genuine then you just posted it in the wrong thread because no one reading the original blog post and news story it is based on is in any mood to hear it.

Toughen up cupcake.

Anonymous BBGKB January 17, 2017 1:21 PM  

Five hundred dollars was almost two weeks take home pay for me when I was there

I mentioned before that I kicked a guy out of my place and took a hammer to my hard drive when I found stuff on my computer, but 2 weeks pay might be enough to entice someone to plant stuff.

We truly live in a panopticon. Trump's administration won't change that one tiny bit

We will see if Soros and Podesta are walking free this time next month.

And is this another recipe for how to kill your company? Muh Diversity

I knew doing cntrl+ F attendance would give a hit.

Wow, thanks for the link dc.sunsets.....Looks like "touch DNA" could

Add to the problems of touch DNA, finding a family member partial DNA. The genealogy DNA businesses let govt search their database. Even worse affirmative action lab workers reported by Nicholas Stix as a recurring series. http://www.vdare.com/articles/diversity-is-strength-it-s-also-forensic-science-scandals

Blogger Gordon January 17, 2017 1:26 PM  

See, my IP address resolves to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Best Buy's corporate headquarters, for which I saw the blueprints before it was built, lies less than two miles south of Minneapolis' southern border.

What's more, I would be very surprised to learn that this blog's proprietor was not acquainted with Richard Schultz, the founding CEO.

This is deep blog. What you simpletons can't understand is that Vox is way beyond 11-dimensional chess played underwater. He plays 11-dimensional chess in a shack on frozen Lake Minnetonka, while fishing for walleye.

Blogger Cail Corishev January 17, 2017 1:32 PM  

Some are there because they needed a job that had flexible hours and Geek Squad pays above minimum wage.

No doubt you're right. My impression of them locally is that they hire graduates of the 6-month crash course in "Computers" at the technical college which didn't teach them enough to get hired anywhere else.

I can sympathize with them, while not wanting them anywhere near my computers, for all the reasons you give.

Blogger Dexter January 17, 2017 1:34 PM  

If they're getting paid to find it, it's only a short step to them putting it on there themselves so they can get paid for finding it.

Blogger dc.sunsets January 17, 2017 1:37 PM  

"the alleged "Jenny" image was found on unallocated "trash" space, meaning it could only be retrieved by "carving" with costly, highly sophisticated forensics tools

Highly sophisticated, my ass.

My wife had a thumb drive that got corrupted. Son #1 used readily-available freeware to dump the contents. Key-word, phrase or even image searches are surely simple enough for any of you with decent skills to code into such freeware. My tax dollars most assuredly swatted (pun!) up a sophisticated and super-fast version.

I once read a story about a guy whose business was file recovery and low-level encryption cracking. He said that he added some loops to extend his software tool's time to completion because clients were pissed about paying him when his program completed its job in a less than a second.

No one cares about privacy anymore because
1. A mania in trust and
2. People are herd animals.

Ancient Roman historian Sallust stated the truth 2000 years ago: "Most men don't desire liberty; most only wish for a just master."

Gary Larson drew another central truth; when the crowd of lemmings goes running into the surf to drown, they will DRAG YOU WITH. Wear a life ring, there's no breaking free of the world to which your neighbors consent.

Blogger dc.sunsets January 17, 2017 1:41 PM  

My impression of them locally is that they hire graduates of the 6-month crash course in "Computers" at the technical college which didn't teach them enough to get hired anywhere else.

My sons who earned BS degrees in Comp Sci were among a very small group of their peers who actually learned how to repair PC's. Others can correct me if my anecdote doesn't scale, but I suspect most people who repair PCs aren't computer scientists (of any sort) and most computer scientists are not PC repairmen.

Anonymous Crew January 17, 2017 1:42 PM  

@19: I thought it was fixed: https://infogalactic.com/info/Indigenous_peoples_of_Europe

Blogger James Dixon January 17, 2017 1:45 PM  

> Because they're literally the only electronics repair place where I live. All the local mom & pops have closed up shop.

If I lived in that area, I might be persuaded to see that as a business opportunity.

Blogger Gordon January 17, 2017 1:49 PM  

dc.sunsets wrote: I suspect most people who repair PCs aren't computer scientists (of any sort) and most computer scientists are not PC repairmen.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb points out that market traders and what we think of as Wall Street execs are utterly different species.

Anonymous Mathias January 17, 2017 2:43 PM  

@46

We still using the "out of africa" theory? The whole bit about Europeans being short and dark 4500 years ago seems to be unsubstantiated wishful thinking on the part of the Daily Mail and a bunch of east asains. Note, I am willing to accept the migration theories concerning origins in the middle east and near Asia(Egypt), but the sources for this particular claim seem to be nothing but a couple of news articles from not very trustworthy sources (Daily Mail/fake news et al.). We can tell from the evidence that there was a population turnover 4500 years ago, but it is unclear from the articles that it was due to interbreeding instead of simple conquest. Furthermore, European expansion mostly takes the pattern of into africa, not out of it. I wonder if the genetic evidence really points the other way.

Blogger Avalanche January 17, 2017 2:46 PM  

@16 "maintenance and troubleshooting work is very rarely going to require you to look at user files."

This is what's infuriating me about my current (soon to be ex-)ISP: they (apparently) HATE it when I send some comments or parts of Vox's blog entries to a couple of my friends. Their "security SW" refuses to send some of my messages, as it is IDed something the text as possible spam. The workaround they suggest? First read and remove any words on their "list of bad words that might trigger our security SW" followed by "Send us your message for review."

Uh, not just no, but hell no to the nth degree!!

I tried (and it worked for a short while) adding spaces between "voxday" and ".blogspot-etc." in the URL in the text, but that quit working.

(At the moment, I'm able to send through my comcast acct-supplied email; less than optimal and Comcast, no doubt, turns everything over to the govt -- but I'm on all the govt lists anyway...)

Blogger James Dixon January 17, 2017 2:53 PM  

> (At the moment, I'm able to send through my comcast acct-supplied email; less than optimal and Comcast, no doubt, turns everything over to the govt -- but I'm on all the govt lists anyway...)

If you don't care about that, just use a gmail account.

Blogger Cail Corishev January 17, 2017 2:55 PM  

The swing on online privacy, from paranoia to casual trust, has been amazing to watch. In the late 1990s, when the Internet was taking off, people were careful about giving their email addresses out, even to friends, for fear of getting on spam lists. The movie "The Net" played on their fears that if you put any information about yourself online, they could find out what you had for breakfast.

A decade or so later, the same people were putting pictures online of their kids playing in the park -- carrying timestamps and location info, for all they know. You don't have to snoop to find out what they had for breakfast, because they post pictures of that too.

The change has been striking.

Anonymous Icicle January 17, 2017 2:57 PM  

This is part of the surveillance state I mentioned Vox. Nice way to get around those pesky warrant things.

And yet, we still can't seem to secure the border.

Blogger Avalanche January 17, 2017 2:59 PM  

@44 "No one cares about privacy anymore because
1. A mania in trust and
2. People are herd animals."

You're leaving out simple lack of ability or tools or time! I worry about privacy; I read up (even watched some 'hacker conference YouTubes' -- liked the one on cracking gun safes but it was truly deeply dismaying!). I would LIKE to take the time to figure out PGP and other ways to protect my privacy -- but I have to make a living! It's too much to keep up with.

Doesn't matter how MUCH I care about privacy -- the VA puts my SSN on the stupid referral form for a local doctor's office. Privacy is dead.

Anonymous Steve Canyon January 17, 2017 3:11 PM  

And yet the FBI ignores Pizzagate.

Sacrifice petty pedos, protect pizza types

Blogger dc.sunsets January 17, 2017 3:13 PM  

@52 so true.
You're likely familiar with Phil Zimmerman and PGP. Back in the 1990's cryptography was BIG news, something about which Joe Blow might read.

Now, it really doesn't occur to people that everything they put on a phone is reachable, everything that stores in "the cloud" is reachable, and that their teenage daughter is in all likelihood taking nude selfies that will still be floating around for her grandsons to access.

But it's illegal to sell a phone that doesn't track its whereabouts. Just as it's illegal to avoid scrutiny by depositing a legally-acquired $10,000.01 in three installments.

Like I said, we get the world to which our (astonishingly ignorant) neighbors consent. It has always been so, it will always be so. It's part of the Human Being OS.

Anonymous To Mock a Killingbird January 17, 2017 3:15 PM  

Some years ago, I took a PC to Geeksquad in what was a futile attempt to recover data on a drive with a head crash. There is a standard data recovery agreement that- in addition to not guaranteeing success- states that if they find anything illegal, they will cooperate with the authorities.

Now unless you are stupid, you realize that data recovery does NOT involve reviewing the content of files; and even spot-checking wouldn't be a productive use of time, given that the average hard drive has hundreds of thousands or millions of files-the only way they could FIND anything is to LOOK.

A local man in town did not figure that out; a dozen or so images of girls under the age of consent got him fired and on Megan's list.

Anonymous Ain January 17, 2017 5:54 PM  

Pay a reprobate money to find problems, and he will manufacture them to keep cash flow going.

Blogger Robert What? January 17, 2017 5:57 PM  

Child porn and child abuse are legal. But only if you are a high ranking Democrat who eats pizza.

Blogger dvdivx January 17, 2017 6:00 PM  

That actually happened in ancient Rome. It was more of a protection racket after a while.

Anonymous Marvin Boggs January 17, 2017 6:52 PM  

@45: I've a degree in Comp Sci plus multiple decades of experience. We had about 2 weeks of actual hardware education that had naught to do with fixing PCs. Nothing else in 4 years of uni. Fixing hardware is not what we do. Most people really do not comprehend that, and it's really annoying.

All that said, I generally build my own desktop machines. I don't really want to have to take them to GS or the like for service. And I get equipment that actually meets my wants.

Anonymous Marvin Boggs January 17, 2017 6:58 PM  

@56 wrote: "But it's illegal to sell a phone that doesn't track its whereabouts. Just as it's illegal to avoid scrutiny by depositing a legally-acquired $10,000.01 in three installments. "

Not an American nor a lawyer: question - if I had 3 bank accounts and wanted to split the money amongst them, would that not be legal?

Blogger Mountain Man January 17, 2017 7:19 PM  

@54

Every journey begins with a small step...You might consider using Startpage and coupling it with Private Internet Access.
https://www.privateinternetaccess.com

Blogger Mountain Man January 17, 2017 7:24 PM  

Any faith that I once had in the benevolent nature of law enforcement was destroyed after regularly reading this blog:
http://freedominourtime.blogspot.com

Blogger Cataline Sergius January 17, 2017 7:53 PM  

The worry is simple enough.

Pay snitches enough money to provide evidence and sooner or later one of them will provide evidence...whether a crime was committed or not.

Blogger Benjamin Kraft January 17, 2017 9:04 PM  

Geek squad undercover FBI agent reports it to his boss in the squad, also undercover FBI, and their colleague, also undercover FBI...

Seriously, is there anyone in the Geek Squad who ISN'T FBI?

I'm just laughing here. I didn't even have to get to the part about them being paid to do illegal searches to start laughing. This is keystone kops level stuff here.

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Blogger Nathan Braun January 17, 2017 11:17 PM  

The only reason cp is illegal is so fbi agents can plant it on people they don't like's harddrive

Anonymous Dave January 18, 2017 12:36 AM  

Speaking of killing your business, I knew last May that Ringling Bros. retiring their elephants would cause a drastic drop in ticket sales. Now the famed circus is going out of business, and animal-rights activists are gloating over their victory.

Did Ringling foolishly think it could appease SJWs, or was it somehow taken over by them?

Blogger James Dixon January 18, 2017 8:16 AM  

> Not an American nor a lawyer: question - if I had 3 bank accounts and wanted to split the money amongst them, would that not be legal?

No, it wouldn't be. It would be if you deposited the entire amount into one account and then transferred what you wanted to each of the other accounts. But splitting the money between the three accounts initially wouldn't be. Yes, the laws are that stupid.

Blogger dc.sunsets January 18, 2017 10:09 AM  

Not an American nor a lawyer: question - if I had 3 bank accounts and wanted to split the money amongst them, would that not be legal?

The test is, "Could anyone come up with the most outlandish notion that what you did was to avoid hitting a mandatory reporting threshold, or even a 'non-mandatory' threshold?"

Yes, it is that Kafkaesque. The law is written (and applied) to give great latitude to enforcement interpretation. The poster child for how stupid is that business people have been prosecuted for making small deposits of cash in the course of their business, even if they did so simply as the cash came into their tills. If you wanted to flip used cars for cash, each transaction grossed $4,000 and you did one sale a day, depositing the proceeds immediately each time, on the third day on you would be at risk of being charged with structuring.

As a non-American you have no idea how much non-US banks try to avoid doing business with private US citizens. It's now reportedly quite difficult to get a non-multinational bank in a foreign country to open an account for a US citizen. They don't want our deposits...too many strings attached, reporting requirements and insane levels of oversight.

"Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave," my ass.

Anonymous genericviews January 18, 2017 2:06 PM  

If you pay people to find child porn, they will find child porn, even if they have to put it there themselves. That is why such tactics should be forbidden from the start.

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