The too cozy relationship between tech companies and the myriad law-enforcement arms of the US government is troubling. But when government pays employees in those tech companies to do what is essentially free-lance snooping, it is beyond the pale.
The O.C. Weekly writes about United States of America v. Mark A. Rettenmaier.
Rettenmaier is a prominent Orange County physician and surgeon who had no idea that a Nov. 1, 2011, trip to a Mission Viejo Best Buy would jeopardize his freedom and eventually raise concerns about, at a minimum, FBI competency or, at worst, corruption. Unable to boot his HP Pavilion desktop computer, he sought the assistance of the store’s Geek Squad. At the time, nobody knew the company’s repair technicians routinely searched customers’ devices for files that could earn them $500 windfalls as FBI informants. This case produced that national revelation.
Anyone ever use Best Buy’s “Geek Squad?” Because maybe they were checking your computer for kiddie porn while they were installing that big hard drive or more memory.*
Government and business need to be separate. There can be no real freedom when the private relationships we form with those companies are open to examination by the government as a matter of course, and not as a result of a warrant signed by a judge.
These businesses are rent-seeking collaborators, who hope to deflect attention from their own responsibilities (which are difficult and require fighting the government) by acquiescing to government pressure to rat out their own customers.
*Do it yourself. It’s easy.