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Geek Squad Steals Porn?
July 6, 2007 6:48 PM   Subscribe

Using a computer set to auto-screencast, The Consumerist catches a Geek Squad technician copying porn from a client's computer to a thumbdrive, and they've got video and logfiles (CSV) to prove it. Also, the Geek Squad CEO responds, and an anonymous Geek Squad tech confesses that this is not an uncommon practice: "stealing customers' nudie pics was an easter egg hunt." Consumerist users suggest that this practice might not be limited to Geek Squad. Via.
posted by charmston (73 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
A few years ago when I worked at a cell-phone retail store we found nudie pics quite regularly on customers returned camera phones. If there was anything good I'm sure we would have saved it. Is anyone actually surprised that people would do this? I'd be more surprised if they didn't.
posted by Octoparrot at 6:57 PM on July 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


So remember kids, make sure your top-level porn directory is full of furry porn and cat maidens. This will disgust even those with such low self-esteem they willingly work on a "Geek Squad", keeping them from digging any deeper to find your real stash.
posted by orthogonality at 6:58 PM on July 6, 2007


1. Porn on External HDs only
2. Bury porn amongst backup of boring stuff
3. ???
4. Profit!!!
posted by Mick at 7:09 PM on July 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


No way. Wow. What a surprise.
posted by arcticwoman at 7:15 PM on July 6, 2007


I can't see why this would upset anyone. Is the owner being deprived of anything? Not that I can see. Maybe they are embarrassed? If so, that seems pretty irrational. If you get a technician to service a computer that has a nice large directory of porn on its hard drive, that tech is pretty much guaranteed to see it. If someone is so shy that that upsets them, they need to either fix the machine themselves or not keep porn on it. Or at least, learn how to hide it, though the file sizes and extensions will still be a dead giveaway to an inspection of the hard drive contents. I suppose if the owner had gone and PAID for his naughty pics and videos he might be upset that someone was getting the same goodies for free - but such is life.

I had a pc go belly-up on me a few years back and had to take it to a pro to figure it out. I told him right up that the wallpaper was a randomly changing image of Playboy playmates (yeah, I know, oink.) and if that would offend him I could take the machine elsewhere.

When he got his breath back after the alarming fit of laughter, he assured me it would be ok. When I came back to pick the machine up he told me he was going to knock five bucks off the tab for the good high res collection of pics.
posted by John Smallberries at 7:16 PM on July 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


What's the big deal? I can bet you that if they had copied mp3s, no one would have even bothered to post a comment on that thread. I don't understand this concept of "my porn" -- I mean if it was personal photos or documents, that'd be something else but honestly, it's the same porn that everyone downloads anonymously from the Internet.

At some point, you'd think that if Geek Squad was being careful with the hard drives, they'd make it policy to clone the drive contents before poking around with a screwdriver, which means they'd be obligated to make a copy of the porn along with everything else.
posted by junesix at 7:18 PM on July 6, 2007


I think this post would be much more clear if it read, "The Consumerist catches a Geek Squad technician copying home made porn from a client's computer to a thumbdrive".
If that isn't a correct reading, this post is lame.
posted by Chuckles at 7:20 PM on July 6, 2007


shoulda got Jock Squad.
posted by tremspeed at 7:26 PM on July 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


Is that "steals" like when I record a TV show on my VCR I'm "stealing" it? Captain Copyright has really done a good job, I see!
posted by Jimbob at 7:34 PM on July 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


it's the same porn that everyone downloads anonymously from the Internet.

Porn is sacred didn't you hear?

Although possibly it could been self-porn?
posted by chrisbucks at 7:36 PM on July 6, 2007


Yeah, really. So what?
Shame on Consumerist for the witch hunt.
posted by Methylviolet at 7:38 PM on July 6, 2007


Who knew that when you hand over your computer to a repair technician, you could be giving a stranger a veritable Pandora's box?

The above quote from consumerist.

Who knew? Almost anybody with the slightest intuition about human nature. Even in the pre-computer days I understand people at photo shops were gazing at your pictures and sometimes making copies for themselves. Who knew? Everybody.
posted by vacapinta at 7:38 PM on July 6, 2007


Suddenly "stealing" is the correct term for copying files when Best Buy does it but incorrect when used to describe copying mp3s (Finding thousands of concurring opinions is left as an exercise to the reader)?
posted by null terminated at 7:41 PM on July 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


If they wanted a stronger knee-jerk, this article might be better framed as "Your personal data" instead of "porn". This guy went after pron-bait folders, some other guy might make a copy of your Quicken files.
posted by ikareru at 7:43 PM on July 6, 2007


I was also reminded of this.
posted by null terminated at 7:45 PM on July 6, 2007


I think a lot of posters are being oblivious to the larger problem here. If Geek Squad doesn't have safeguards that prevent techs from stealing your porn, what other files are they not preventing their techs from taking?
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 7:47 PM on July 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


If they wanted a stronger knee-jerk, this article might be better framed as "Your personal data" instead of "porn". This guy went after pron-bait folders, some other guy might make a copy of your Quicken files.

And when that happens, you call the cops and have him treated like any other identity thief. Look, the only lesson is that if you don't want any strangers to see it, it shouldn't be on your hard drive, and everybody with half a brain already knew that. If I take my machine in for repairs and the tech wants to help him- or herself to copies of porn, MP3s or what have you, it's no skin off my nose.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:49 PM on July 6, 2007


ikareru & faster than a speeding bulette:

You guys just made me slap my forehead and say "doh!" - because that IS an issue, isn't it?

/reminds self once again to make sure any such important info is encrypted
posted by John Smallberries at 7:53 PM on July 6, 2007


And ftasb, what safeguards would you suggest be put in place that wouldn't make it more difficult or time-consuming to accomplish the task of repairing people's computers? If a tech abuses a customer's private information, then you fire him and press charges, but if there's no harm, there's no foul.

Look at it this way-- if your mailman opens your credit card bills and starts making charges under your name, you call the cops. If all he does is thumb through your issue of Penthouse before dropping it in the box, who the hell cares?
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:55 PM on July 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


There's a Pulitzer waiting here for CARL MONDAY, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER!
posted by swell at 7:56 PM on July 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


Hold up, hold up. First Scooter Libby, and now this? My world is turning upside down!
posted by Nabubrush at 8:00 PM on July 6, 2007


Yes, it's all a harmless lark unless you happen to be Gary Glitter...
posted by Tube at 8:06 PM on July 6, 2007 [2 favorites]


This guy went after pron-bait folders, some other guy might make a copy of your Quicken files.

And what do you want to do about that, exactly?

If it worries you, encrypt your data. It's that simple. Sometimes, in order to do their job, people have to get inside your privacy barrier. You leave your car at the mechanics. You let the plumber into your bathroom. You let a tech support guy log into your computer. And a certain percentage of the population is dishonest - the mechanic might take your ride for a spin, Ferris Bueller-style. The great thing about computers is that you can protect your private data by encrypting it, or putting it on an external harddrive.

It's been fucking obvious to me anyway; on the rare occasions I've had to let someone else onto my PC, that's exactly what I've done before they've got there. You're mental if you don't.
posted by Jimbob at 8:14 PM on July 6, 2007


If you like naked pics, buy a Mac. That way you can do 99.98% of your own tech support.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:19 PM on July 6, 2007


This is my shocked face.

Speaking as a former PC/network tech, most of the porn I encountered (and this is generally in situations where it was either technically or logistically impossible to copy it anyway) wasn't worth stealing.

Frankly, the internet is such a spigot of porn, I'm not sure I see the point.
posted by dhartung at 8:29 PM on July 6, 2007


I worked at a small PC-repair chain which I will call "Computer NERDZ!" because it is the actual name of the place. Nearly every computer that got taken back to the shop for an inpatient visit got scoured for filez and copyable games. Less scrupulous techs could easily get all the porn they could want.

Me, I never searched for porn. There are things you definately don't want to know about your recurring customers, and their kinks is one of them. Besides, you have to be pretty lazy to not be able to get all the porn you could possibly want from the bosom of Mother Internet.
posted by maus at 8:36 PM on July 6, 2007


From the video it didn't look he was specificly searching for porn, he just went into the My Pictures folder and a couple on the desktop, one of which was just mp3s), he then went to check them out after copying them, looked like vacation photos, photos of people clubbing, photos of a girl at the beach. So I dont think its the point that he's copying peoples pron which they've downloaded, but their personal photos which is quite creepy actually.
posted by chrisbucks at 8:39 PM on July 6, 2007


This guy went after pron-bait folders, some other guy might make a copy of your Quicken files.

And what do you want to do about that, exactly?

If it worries you, encrypt your data. It's that simple.


While your suggestion to encrypt data can't be argued with in and of itself, your attitude puzzles me. It's as if you're saying we don't need police because people can prevent murder by simply avoiding death. And if stupid people can't manage to stay alive ... well, bummer.

Me, I'd like to find other ways to prevent the murder in the first place.

Banks, for example, have fairly good industry practices to screen employees with access to sensitive data. BestBuy clearly has no such stringent policies.

This kind of DIY reporting is great stuff, and should be encouraged.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:44 PM on July 6, 2007


I can't see why this would upset anyone. Is the owner being deprived of anything? Not that I can see. Maybe they are embarrassed? If so, that seems pretty irrational.

Well that's absurd. What if they want to run for public office or something in the future?

But yeah, film techs used to do this all the time too, back in the mechanical camera days.
posted by delmoi at 9:23 PM on July 6, 2007


People actually save porn?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:25 PM on July 6, 2007


Look at it this way-- if your mailman opens your credit card bills and starts making charges under your name, you call the cops. If all he does is thumb through your issue of Penthouse before dropping it in the box, who the hell cares?

I'm amazed how many people here are thinking of this as Porn people download off the internet. Obviously the worry is people getting porn that you make yourself, with your SO (and or friends).
posted by delmoi at 9:26 PM on July 6, 2007


While your suggestion to encrypt data can't be argued with in and of itself, your attitude puzzles me. It's as if you're saying we don't need police because people can prevent murder by simply avoiding death. And if stupid people can't manage to stay alive ... well, bummer.

That's really stretching the metaphor. Unlike avoiding death, encryption is possible. Unlike trying to avoid murder, encryption is 100% successful if done right. Unlike safety precautions, encryption is easy.
posted by delmoi at 9:35 PM on July 6, 2007


The procedure taken to catch up on the computers was to take any computer currently in line to be fixed, or being dropped off to be fixed, and--if it had a software or operating system issue--wipe it, and reinstall Windows. Then, when the customer was given back his or her computer, an agent would inform them that due to an error, their data was lost. If they protested, the agent would be considerate, but in the end, if need be, point out #10 and their signature beneath it. For those that do not understand "wipe", it refers to completely deleting all data off the hard drive, and re-installing a fresh version of the Windows operating system. One supportive comment given by a manager, after a obligatory chuckle, was, "Oh well, they should have bought a data backup!" I never took part in this strategy, thankfully, as I was forced onto the floor to help people with their purchases after I was caught by a manager informing customers it would be better if they went to the Geek Squad a few towns over until we catch up.
Wow, that's horrible (from this absurdly turgid piece)
posted by delmoi at 9:44 PM on July 6, 2007


As a card-carrying ACLU member, my civil-liberties-infringement-o-mometer reacts as follows:

- Commercial enterprise to whom I have freely taken my computer stealing my pron files: 2 out of 10.

- Incarceration at Guantanamo for poorly-defined potential crimes against the U.S. without proper habeus corpus protections: 9 out of 10.
posted by googly at 9:47 PM on July 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


I can't see why this would upset anyone. Is the owner being deprived of anything? Not that I can see.

If you work for a tech support shop, please tell us which one. I'd really like to keep my shit far the fuck away from you, as I don't really want holier-than-thou nerds hellbent on turning my privacy into a fucking intellectual property debate working on my stuff.

Just because you're working on my computer doesn't give you the right to nose through it. I was a service technician in a retail shop, and I never had to snoop through people's stuff to fix their computers. Ever. Period.

Again, for the DVD Jon crowd:

This has nothing to do with depriving me of property, and everything to do with depriving me of privacy. Ever heard of an emotional response? NORMAL PEOPLE tend to have them when you go through their things. Sure, you can get these white socks anywhere, but does that give you the right to snoop through each pair of mine individually when you're just hired to fix my dresser?
posted by Mikey-San at 9:47 PM on July 6, 2007 [5 favorites]


If someone is so shy that that upsets them, they need to either fix the machine themselves or not keep porn on it.

....and if you don't have anything to hide, the government can read your mail/put a camera outside your house/keep track of your Internet activity/and spy on your kids at school. What a weak, copout response.

So you wouldn't mind if, while I fix your cable TV, I take a look through your dresser, see if you've got any toys, eh? Won't mind if I just take a peek in your desk drawers, see if there's anything cool, there, right? Check out the kids room, maybe? Take a picture of the sleeping baby?

"but it happens all the time!" "What's the big deal?"

It's an invasion of privacy. A Very Big Deal. He swiped porn. That's nothing, that's kid stuff. The boy's an amateur. Porn is common and frankly, everywhere.
But he could also have swiped credit card data, the Quicken file, copies of legal documents, anything at all that looked interesting. Pictures of your kids, of your dog, your address...

The only reason a tech should copy data from a client PC is if the client needs it done, i.e. rebuilding the PC or rescuing the data in some fashion. But there's never a reason to troll a hard drive for good stuff.
If one of my techs did this, I'd fire him and then I'd turn over anything the client needed to criminally prosecute them. Because to me, this is a crime.

Clients should have no reason (or at least, not one caused by me or my guys) to have to hide their own stuff on their own computers. And my guys are strongly tested/background checked and bonded, for this reason. They are trained to clearly say "I need to look around on your hard drive, you should look at the privacy statement on my work order first".

It's a lot like working on someone's house and going through their dresser, isn't it? I mean, jesus, have some fucking dignity and ethics.
posted by disclaimer at 9:51 PM on July 6, 2007 [3 favorites]


If you like naked pics, buy a Mac. That way you can do 99.98% of your own tech support.

*rolls eyes*

You guys just can't resist, can you? I do 99.99% of my tech support, and I don't own a Mac. That said, because of that tiny one one-hundredth of a percent, I'm in no mood to defend Microsoft.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:51 PM on July 6, 2007


Did the screen recording program have an ultra-secret mode, or was he just stupid?
posted by oxford blue at 9:53 PM on July 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


This probably makes me one of the uncool kids, but frankly? I don't want these guys going through my shit. Why? I dunno. 'Cause it's mine. I'm not shocked or anything to learn that they do...but I mean, while I wouldn't exactly be shocked to catch someone reading my diary, I would be pretty pissed. "You left it sitting out!" would not suffice as an excuse. That said, there's a reason why people hide their diaries. Sadly, it pays to presume that other people are nosy assholes -- because, well, apparently they are. Is anyone really surprised by this?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:13 PM on July 6, 2007


- Incarceration at Guantanamo for poorly-defined potential crimes against the U.S. without proper habeus corpus protections: 9 out of 10.

Is this a logarithmic or linear scale? I mean, is having your porn stolen a quarter as bad as being thrown in Guantanamo, or one ten-millionth as bad?
posted by delmoi at 10:17 PM on July 6, 2007


I do all my own tech support, and tech support professionally, and for people I know to boot.

Never roamed where I shouldn't and never peeped a file I didn't have to.

It's a matter of pride and respect for the people you are helping, in my mind.

(Sanctimonious screed over.)
posted by Samizdata at 10:19 PM on July 6, 2007


best analogy I've hard yet:

Leaving photos/VHS of yourself engaging in sexual activities in a car that you're handing over to someone else to "fix" over several days.

Only the VHS/photos/whatever are being played on the DVD player on the back of the headrests that made you buy the fricken SUV in the first place so your kids could watch a DVD instead of see how they're travelling across the continent.
posted by porpoise at 10:23 PM on July 6, 2007


If you like naked pics, buy a Mac. That way you can do 99.98% of your own tech support.

Let's not digress into a discussion about how Macs can be as difficult to support as any other operating system...

But, tell that to the people who bring their computers into the Apple Store. I have a number of stories, but my favorite is that of the the woman whose, uh, NSFW self-portraits were 'discovered' whilst her computer was being worked on.

She brought us donuts when she picked her computer up, and I wanted to projectile vomit out of disgust.

They (the managers) considered it funny (they threatened me) that I wanted to quit for personal reasons afterwards, too.

(Yes, ex-genius, whatever; yes, I finally registered after lurking for who-knows-how-long just to comment here.)

The point of the story is that, well, if you're going to give your computer, storage device, etc., to someone else, don't expect that there will be any maintenance of personal privacy. People underestimate both the power of boredom while working a service industry job, as well as the j'ne sais quoi that arises from being able to do things in an undetectable manner. While corporations may put on airs concerning how trustworthy they can be, may the buyer beware when it comes to personal concerns such as the tampering of personal data.

Is this behavior ethical? Fuck no. I've never (I've worked nearly 15 years in IT, ever since high school), and would never do such things, because I'd feel violated if it happened to me. Some of us in the world may not know how to abide by social norms; as in, you know, that tired old notion called respect, but a number of us do.

Is this surprising? Not in the slightest. If one expects that some random stranger is going to treat you with respect, especially when the chances are extremely good that the client and the technician will never look each other in the eye, etc...

I realize that many people don't know a good goddamn about computers, and wouldn't know to, say, pull their hard drive out of their computer before sending it in for service. The fact of the matter is that there are a number of people in the world who would love to make a buck at someone else's expense, whether it be for profit or disgusting amusement; I don't go wandering around Manhattan waving my wallet around screaming "HEY GUYS GOT 300 BUCKS IN THE WALLET HEY WHAT'S GOING ON WANNA ROB ME????".

As a card-carrying ACLU member, my civil-liberties-infringement-o-mometer reacts as follows:

- Commercial enterprise to whom I have freely taken my computer stealing my pron files: 2 out of 10.

- Incarceration at Guantanamo for poorly-defined potential crimes against the U.S. without proper habeus corpus protections: 9 out of 10.


With respect: you're comparing the habits of individuals to the habits of a governmental apparatus. (Maybe even digressing into some sort of relativist view of reality, who knows.) The two are quite different from one another, and I'll leave the discussion of, uh, differences between personal amateur porno and habeas corpus relief as an exercise to the reader. One of these things is decidedly not like the other.
posted by peeet at 10:23 PM on July 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


There are plenty of situations in which we expect a person acting in some capacity not to use information acquired in that capacity for their own benefit.

Lawyers, doctors, accountants, stockbrokers, agents, trustees, etc.

I don't see why "computer repair technicians" shouldn't be added to that list. Personal computers are inherently suitable for storing confidential information (in a way automobile, etc. are not) and difficult for non-specialists to service.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:38 PM on July 6, 2007


I'm wondering how many of the people who think this is no big deal support the idea of CCTV cameras on every corner, or bag searches every time they enter the subway. What if the Geek Squad routinely made copies of all your data, not just your porn, and what if they then passed them onto police for safekeeping?
posted by sevenyearlurk at 10:42 PM on July 6, 2007


Its fun to see this conversation veering into predictable territory.

I think many people said above, including me, that this is not in the least surprising - meaning, we already knew handing over our computer was handing over all our data. Meaning this article has no surprises.

Does that mean we think that is the best of all situations? No, of course not. Which is why people have recommended encrypting your data and so forth.

I'm wondering how many of the people who think this is no big deal support the idea of CCTV cameras on every corner

See the postman looking through your Penthouse analogy above.
posted by vacapinta at 10:48 PM on July 6, 2007


sevenyearlurk: "I'm wondering how many of the people who think this is no big deal support the idea of CCTV cameras on every corner, or bag searches every time they enter the subway."

I'm wondering why people can't see the difference between mandatory government searching and surveillance of the populace at large, and one person looking through property that you've voluntarily handed to them.

Not saying that either is right, but it's a pretty freakin' obvious difference.
posted by CrayDrygu at 11:18 PM on July 6, 2007


But, tell that to the people who bring their computers into the Apple Store. I have a number of stories, but my favorite is that of the the woman whose, uh, NSFW self-portraits were 'discovered' whilst her computer was being worked on.

I guess the simplest thing to do is to have two accounts. One admin account and a second personal account that you use regularly with FileVault switched on. Then you could bring your Mac in and give them your admin password with no worries. Am I correct?
posted by bobo123 at 11:44 PM on July 6, 2007


I guess the simplest thing to do is to have two accounts. One admin account and a second personal account that you use regularly with FileVault switched on. Then you could bring your Mac in and give them your admin password with no worries. Am I correct?

It's efficient for the time invested, I agree.

But, I maintain that the easiest (and most efficient) thing to do is remove the hard drive. If one is truly concerned about data privacy, filevault won't cut it. Nothing short of denial of physical access will suffice. But, for everyday tinfoil wearers, yes.

Unless it's a problem with the hard drive, naturally. But even then, it may not matter -- especially if one is paranoid enough to throw three-letter-agencies into the mix.

(Honestly, if you picked a random person off the street, they wouldn't give a flying fuck at a rolling donut about data privacy.)
posted by peeet at 11:57 PM on July 6, 2007


peeet:

Do not confuse "things in plain sight may inadvertently be seen by technicians during the repair process" with "technicians actively rooting through your things". They are not the same at all.

Funny mini-story:

A guy once brought us his iMac for repair. His desktop picture? One of the worst spread-eagle pink shots you've ever seen. And it was scaled 2x its normal size, 'cause his screen resolution was waaay higher than the picture itself. It was like a can of minced beef threw up in a pan of baby oil and saved itself at the worst possible compression rate.
posted by Mikey-San at 12:05 AM on July 7, 2007


Unless it's a problem with the hard drive, naturally.

You, as the user, may not always realize when the HD is to blame, or is involved with other damage. (Ask me how many times I've seen machines refuse to power up because the HD controller was malfunctioning. How is a user supposed to know not to remove the HD?)
posted by Mikey-San at 12:06 AM on July 7, 2007


Boy oh boy.

Since when did it become OK to go through people's personal stuff.
Because, you know, as a plumber I'd sure like to be called out to fix a problem at your houses.
You seem to think there's nothing wrong with going through a few drawers. For curiosities sake.
posted by seanyboy at 12:52 AM on July 7, 2007


This is not a new phenomenon. When I worked at a photo lab, aeons ago, when I finally became accepted by the other employees, they dragged out the "big album."

It was a massive binder of amusing customer prints, made over the years by the staff there. When they'd find an image that was particularly amusing, the printer would run a double of it and stick it in the binder. (This was back when photo processing involved slightly more human interaction than it does now, and there was enough waste prints for a few doubles here and there to go unnoticed.)

They didn't just go for nudes, either -- after you've worked in a lab for a while, run-of-the-mill homemade porn just isn't that interesting anymore -- but they did put the more ... odd stuff in there. Plus just really ironic photos.

The best one I ever saw was a candid shot taken of a little girl cluelessly selling Girl Scout cookies ... in front of the entrance to a "gentlemen's club."
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:03 AM on July 7, 2007


I think it's very, very bad for professionals1 not to respect others' privacy. In the course of your work, you may be privy to all sorts of things—but you maintain confidentiality and you certainly don't make copies of people's private and sensitive material. It's really, really wrong for photo techs to do so and it's wrong for computer techs to do so.

In my professional capacity, I sometimes had access to customers' business and personal data. I've always felt a very strong sense of professional responsibility to be very discrete. When I saw something that might be embarrassing for the customer, I pretended not to. This is also especially true when helping out friends and family and doing troubleshooting on their computers. I mind my own business. If I see something that someone might wish I hadn't, I pretty much erase it from my mind.

That doesn't mean that customers shouldn't be aware that lots of people are quite deficient in terms of professional ethics and basically just aren't very nice. If you've got something especially sensitive, you should probably take steps to protect it from people that are less than honorable.

1. “Professional” in the generic and very loose sense.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:34 AM on July 7, 2007


Right there with you, EB - I scrolled down here to post something very similar, but I'll just sum it up like this: you can, but you don't.
peeet: People underestimate both the power of boredom while working a service industry job, as well as the j'ne sais quoi that arises from being able to do things in an undetectable manner.
Yeah, tell me about it, but if you've got an ounce of decency - "you can, but you don't".

I worked 20+ years for a telco, looking after everything from local switching to secure gov't comms, and ended up crawling around peoples houses & bedrooms. The first thing you learn, in your first week, is that 99.99% of everything you could spy on is as mundane and boring as batshit - and the second thing you learn is that most of the other 0.01% is almost as boring.

Even so, you come across things regardless. I could tell plenty; stuff that would've brought down governments, or the time the very young wife of a very important person forgot to wear underwear under her skirt (and only realised halfway through her screaming tirade against my employer, whilst I was sitting on the floor fixing her DSL - poor dear turned bright red and ran away ;-).

I could, but I won't.

Compared to some of that, porn on computers - even of the home-made variety - is nothing. Which is why, the one time I had to take my computer in to be fixed (eMac under warranty with a blown video board, so not user-serviceable), I had no problem with the porn pics, folders, and bookmarks I knew were on the desktop - including some rather special ones of my (now) ex.

I did, however, suggest to the tech - out of a certain respect I have for the sensibilities of others - that if he didn't want to see that sort of thing he might like to pass it on to one of the other guys to fix. And I now leave an SSH server running on all my machines so I can go in and tidy that sort of thing up beforehand.
posted by Pinback at 4:36 AM on July 7, 2007


Suddenly "stealing" is the correct term for copying files when Best Buy does it but incorrect when used to describe copying mp3s

Yeah, null, someone already made that point before you, though they spun it a different way. A- for including links.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:47 AM on July 7, 2007


Isn't this how they nailed Gary Glitter for child porn?
posted by jonp72 at 6:36 AM on July 7, 2007


Isn't this how they nailed Gary Glitter for child porn?

It is.

My oddest tech support story is along these lines. I work at a local university, and I was once brought some guy's PC by his housemates. The kid had committed suicide and his housemates wanted his PC searched for porn before his parents arrived to pick it up, "just in case he's into animals or something". Their hunch was right too.
posted by vbfg at 6:59 AM on July 7, 2007


(delmoi) Is this a logarithmic or linear scale? I mean, is having your porn stolen a quarter as bad as being thrown in Guantanamo, or one ten-millionth as bad?

Hmm. I'd have to go with logarithmic on that one.

(peeet) With respect: you're comparing the habits of individuals to the habits of a governmental apparatus. (Maybe even digressing into some sort of relativist view of reality, who knows.) The two are quite different from one another, and I'll leave the discussion of, uh, differences between personal amateur porno and habeas corpus relief as an exercise to the reader. One of these things is decidedly not like the other.

Point taken. I was trying to illustrate my relative outrage, but the comparison is infelicitous.
posted by googly at 7:00 AM on July 7, 2007


My oddest tech support story is along these lines. I work at a local university, and I was once brought some guy's PC by his housemates. The kid had committed suicide and his housemates wanted his PC searched for porn before his parents arrived to pick it up, "just in case he's into animals or something". Their hunch was right too.

Yahhh. I guess if I watched more "Law & Order" I would know this, but doesn't any non-natural death usually involve at least a cursory police investigation? I think I would have been very hesitant to touch the contents of the dead kid's computer, had I been you.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:04 AM on July 7, 2007


Several jobs ago I worked for a religious nut. We brought a new computer to his house and were asked to transfer everything from his old computer. I didn't even search for porn, it was just sitting there right on his desktop. And such porn! Who would get off on this stuff? Apparently when confronted (I sure as hell didn't but I did tell my immediate supervisor to cover my ass), the religious nut was like "You found that?"

I called in sick the next day.
posted by monkeymike at 9:40 AM on July 7, 2007


If you want to prevent this, use Linux. Nobody else will be able to figure out how to find your files.

not even you.
posted by davejay at 10:59 AM on July 7, 2007


Jesus saves porn.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 11:35 AM on July 7, 2007


"If you want to prevent this, use Linux."

At the shell prompt, type 'locate .mpg .jpg .avi .wmv' (and/or any other likely extension you can think of). Do 'locate .wmv .jpg .avi .mpg > thisguyspr0n.txt' for a printable list, or 'locate .wmv .avi .mpg .jpg | less' to sort through it onscreen. There are even graphical tools I don't bother with.

---
"The kid had committed suicide and his housemates wanted his PC searched for porn before his parents arrived to pick it up."

With such thoughtful housemates as that why'd he have to kill himself?
posted by davy at 5:00 PM on July 7, 2007


From the Wikipedia article on 'Geek Squad.' I mean the "peeping" stuff.
posted by davy at 7:28 PM on July 7, 2007


John Smallberries writes "I can't see why this would upset anyone. Is the owner being deprived of anything? "

Well if the porn starred the owner I can see where that might be worrisome.

dhartung writes "Frankly, the internet is such a spigot of porn, I'm not sure I see the point."

You do have to wonder about the abilities of someone who has to get there fix from customer machines.

Mikey-San writes "I was a service technician in a retail shop, and I never had to snoop through people's stuff to fix their computers. Ever. Period."

Of course you'd still see stuff that was say passing through the virus scanner.

peeet writes "Honestly, if you picked a random person off the street, they wouldn't give a flying fuck at a rolling donut about data privacy."

I'd bet there would be a lot of violated doughnuts if the data was of the personal, NFSW, home made variety.
posted by Mitheral at 9:22 PM on July 7, 2007


Of course you'd still see stuff that was say passing through the virus scanner.

Funny, I've never seen a virus scanner that opened and showed every piece of a user's pornography before.

If a virus scanner finds a file that's infected, it'll notify you. You'll then know the file name and what directory it's in. No, there's nothing you can do about that. But you're not going to OPEN it anyway, because it just got flagged by the virus scanner.

In the end, the virus scanner forces you to know a potentially infected file's name and path. This is unavoidable. But you still haven't gone snooping for his porno folder, and you're not going to open any files flagged by the scanner for at least two reasons.
posted by Mikey-San at 10:32 PM on July 7, 2007


I can see why people get upset that technicians are going through their private files, but those saying "What if they took a copy of your accounts?", they didn't-that's not what this article is about. If the article was about customer's private accounting data being stolen then I could understand.
posted by 999 at 1:49 AM on July 8, 2007


[. . . ] that's not what this article is about. If the article was about customer's private accounting data being stolen then I could understand.

You don't understand what the article is about, either. It's not about taking things, it's about invading someone's privacy. Again, your socks aren't important, and I can get a pair like them anywhere, but do you want me going through your sock drawer when I'm there to find out why the TV in your bedroom isn't working?
posted by Mikey-San at 3:00 AM on July 8, 2007


Mikey-San writes "Funny, I've never seen a virus scanner that opened and showed every piece of a user's pornography before."

Yes, of course, what I was getting at is sometimes the filenames themselves are TMI. When a user's wife is named Foo and their special directory has avis with names like FooGoesDown, FooTiedUp and FooTakesItIn'TheBackOfAVolkswagon' it's when one's practised forgettory needs to kick in. Besides virus scans you'll see file names when copying data, in the recent documents folder, even on the file menu of most programs.

Also this isn't only about porn. In a corporate environment you'll see stuff like job applications or resumes/cover letters stored on hard drives or network storage all the time. Ethically you just don't notice.
posted by Mitheral at 7:49 AM on July 8, 2007


Never roamed where I shouldn't and never peeped a file I didn't have to.
[...]
pos< !-->ted by Samizdata at 1:19 AM on July 7


Eponysterical?
posted by oaf at 9:19 AM on July 8, 2007


I worked Geek Squad while in college, it was decent pay for mindless retail work. We grossed $70 an hour (if we wanted to keep our jobs) and got paid somewhere around $11.

One day, a transgendered person brought her computer in. The first please gouge out my eyes moment was the NSFW desktop.


Then the My Pictures screensaver kicked in...
posted by metaldark at 9:11 PM on July 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


kittens for breakfast: Yahhh. I guess if I watched more "Law & Order" I would know this, but doesn't any non-natural death usually involve at least a cursory police investigation? I think I would have been very hesitant to touch the contents of the dead kid's computer, had I been you.

I did wonder just after I'd done it actually. I'm not sure what the procedure is here (in the UK) but I don't think anything like that is involved in such cases. Certainly nothing of the kind got as far as me anyway.

davy: With such thoughtful housemates as that why'd he have to kill himself?

Dunno, didn't ask. I was struck by the amount of foresight and desire to protect him though. I never expected to be emotionally moved by a request to find donkey pics.
posted by vbfg at 3:17 AM on July 9, 2007


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