When we do computer repair, we see all sorts of personal stuff. It’s not just your Facebook profiles and bank accounts. We can see your browsing habits, who else you know, every password. It’s everything that’s on your phone and more. We take that responsibility seriously, some providers don’t
Recently, national news outlets have covered how Geek Squad has acted as a paid informants to the police. That story really bothered me. As technicians we have an affirmative duty to protect our client’s privacy. We have access to an unprecedented information not just about a client, but all the people that client interacts with. All our technicians go through extensive background checks and a rigorous interview process. That process helps prevent unethical or irresponsible technicians working on machines.
I fully support reporting to law enforcement when we see egregious violations on a system. In particular, we have a duty to report suspected child pornography. Geek Squad of Lawrence reported a customer of theirs with child pornogprahy. The difference between the Lawrence KS and the national story was the circumstances of how the pornography was found. In the Lawrence case, the Geek Squad found the illegal content because of a problem the client reported related to it. We’ve been in that situation too. We don’t open up files or images unless a client specifically requests the investigation or those files show up as containing malware. Our policy, similar to Geek Squad, is to report content we directly see in the process of a repair. We never look for it and never examine images. In my almost thirty years of repair experience, I’ve never had to report an image, but that doesn’t mean I’m not prepared for it.
We also comply with law enforcement requests and court orders. We’ve only turned over a computer once to law enforcement and that was after a fire. Before we could do data recovery, law enforcement wanted to see the computer for potential evidence of arson (none was found). We have however called the police when we suspect a stolen laptop as part of our password reset policy. In these situations, we’ve helped a few people get reunited with a laptop. That’s one of the best parts of the job.
Beyond these situations, what is in your computer is your own business. We’ll protect your privacy and fight for it whenever we can.
Photo by roblawton