Is there any way to ensure our privacy when we let someone fix our computers?
A student at the University of Alabama is suing Best Buy, claiming that revealing photos on her laptop were unjustifiably removed and put on the Internet after she left her laptop with Best Buy’s Geek Squad technical support team for repairs.
The lawsuit, filed at the U.S. District Court in Alabama, claims an invasion of privacy, breach of contract, and negligent supervision, training and entrustment. March found about two years after she’d taken the computer in for repairs that that naked photos of her, which identified her by name, were being shared on peer-to-peer networks like The Pirate Bay.
The woman then notified the manager at the Best Buy in Tuscaloosa, and though an agent with Geek Squad claimed to have tracked down the culprit and deleted the files, the agent also allegedly asked her to do him the “favor of not asking who the culprit was”. So instead she filed a police report.
We all know that our computers are subject to be tampered with when we give them to IT experts, so we hide the private photos, the password lists and the bank statements, right? Or do we? And can’t a savvy IT worker find stuff anyways?
How often does this kind of stuff happen, and what gets stolen or misused? How can consumers protect themselves? How are IT training and certification boards ensuring that this kind of stuff doesn’t happen? Or are too many IT personnel operating without much supervision? And what are the legal implications of tampering? If you give up your computer under a contract that says the service can wipe your hard disk clean, how can you stop them from stealing stuff before they purge it all?
Ben Popken, Senior Staff Writer and Editor at NBCNews.com, formerly at Consumerist.com, where he lead an investigation into Geek Squad that found techs were uploading frivolous pictures from customers’ computers.
Pam Dixon, Executive Director of the World Privacy Forum; she says repair tech tampering is a widespread problem, and she’ll also be able to talk about the specific lawsuit in Alabama and its legal ramifications.