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No Right to Privacy When Your Computer Is Repaired

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the ouch-vaguely-ironic-name-there dept.

The Courts 853

Billosaur writes "ZDNet's Police Blotter bring us the interesting story of a Pennsylvania man who brought his computer into Circuit City to have a DVD burner installed on his computer and wound up being arrested for having child pornography on his hard drive. Circuit City employees discovered the child pornography while perusing Kenneth Sodomsky's hard drive for files to test the burner, then proceeded to call the police, who arrested Sodomsky and confiscated the computer. Sodomsky's lawyer argued in court that the Circuit City techs had no right to go rifling through the hard drive, and the trial court agreed, but prosecutors appealed and the appeals court overturned the lower court's decision, based on the fact that Sodomsky had consented to the installation of the DVD drive."

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853 comments

Apple care (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21772098)

I just brought my machine to an Apple store for repair and they wanted my password.

Re:Apple care (3, Informative)

despe666 (802244) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772274)

Well yeah they need to be able to login to make sure whatever they're repairing worked. Just create them a joe user account and give that to them.

Re:Apple care (3, Informative)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772440)

Or better yet ... learn how to fix your computer yourself. Or just keep all your important information on an external hard drive.

Fake? (5, Funny)

zooblethorpe (686757) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772106)

When the perp has a name like "Sodomsky", I really gotta wonder if this is for real...

Cheers,

Re:Fake? (4, Funny)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772136)

Oh no, don't worry, they probably just changed the name of the accused to protect his dignity.

Re:Fake? (5, Funny)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772178)

Yeah, they changed his name to Gomorrasky.

It's for real! (0, Offtopic)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772446)

I talked to a guy called Sgt. Foo King Liarski.

Re:Fake? (1)

Kryptonian Jor-El (970056) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772604)

What about Double Jeopardy. It seems that the lower courts let him off, how was he charged again?? Can't be real

Ultimately.... (5, Insightful)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772116)

Ultimately it doesn't matter whether you have a right to privacy or not. It's not a right you can rely on. Expect the monkeys to paw through your private photos & videos regardless of where you get your PC repaired.

The answer is routine encryption, but let's face it - if you need help installing a DVD drive, you're unlikely to have any idea what encryption even is....

Re:Ultimately.... (3, Insightful)

TheLazySci-FiAuthor (1089561) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772150)

Privacy is like Freedom: It is not granted, it is earned.

If you need a locksmith to open your safe, you can't expect him to overlook the dead body inside.

Re:Ultimately.... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772226)

why not? Shouldn't there be some kind of client confidentiality involved here?

Freedom is a right. You don't earn it, you protect it.

Why not? (2, Insightful)

celardore (844933) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772344)

Because isn't concealing or helping to conceal a crime against the law in itself?

Re:Ultimately.... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21772346)

There is no confidentiality involved at all, whatsoever, with regard to child abuse. In most U.S. states if you know or even suspect child abuse is occurring you are required to report it to the authorities.

Child pornography involves child abuse. Fail to report it and you can be in a world of shit.

Saying "Well the guy was my client so I had to protect his privacy." won't go over well with investigating police, the judge, the jury, or the guy you end up spending time with.

Re:Ultimately.... (1)

Grygus (1143095) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772400)

And what could they have suspected or known before browsing through his drive? Declining to spy on someone isn't the same as aiding and abetting, assuming we're still living in any kind of republic.

Re:Ultimately.... (1)

HappySmileMan (1088123) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772588)

They were looking for sample media files to test the DVD burner, they didn't go randomly looking for porn, they saw a suspiciously named filed, opened it and then reported it.

Re:Ultimately.... (2, Insightful)

TheLazySci-FiAuthor (1089561) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772506)

Freedom is a right. You don't earn it, you protect it.


That is a good way of putting it. I think we are both saying essentially the same thing. After all, freedom has, however, been earned many times in the past because it was not granted. Freedom is, however, a natural right as you say.

Re:Ultimately.... (5, Insightful)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772468)

Privacy is like Freedom: It is not granted, it is earned.

If you need a locksmith to open your safe, you can't expect him to overlook the dead body inside.
No. It is taken and exercised, and fought for if needed. It's interesting that you chose freedom as an object for comparison, as privacy is freedom. You'd be hard pressed to have freedom without privacy in reality.

Re:Ultimately.... (5, Informative)

man_ls (248470) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772210)

Windows doesn't offer any way to "password protect" with any actual security, files and folders and so forth. That's a major part of the problem -- people want like 1 or 2 folders to be encrypted to where you actually have to authenticate to get in each time.

Windows EFS is decent crypto (I think it's 3DES on workstation, AES on server versions) but once you've authenticated your session, you're in to all the files automatically, it's only good for preventing offline reads. That's it. Privacy -- in general, not just for these situations where someone was doing something illegal -- would be greatly served (and Geek Squad wouldn't find people's private videos of themselves on vacation or whatever) if they'd just add in the feature everyone wants.

Local file access security exists only in a domain or with third-party tools like TrueCrypt.

Re:Ultimately.... (1)

EntropyXP (956792) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772564)

You know, I completely agree with you. In fact, I bet the good geeks left at Microsoft probably agree with you too, but because they have been sued and locked into anti-trust lawsuits for including a friggin' internet browser with their operating syste. So I doubt they are inclined to include any type of encyption that's worth a damn lest they get sued by a million users because they accidentally encrypted their vacation video and can't remember the password for getting their encrypted file back.

Re:Ultimately.... (2, Interesting)

thegrassyknowl (762218) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772394)

Ultimately it doesn't matter whether you have a right to privacy or not. It's not a right you can rely on. Expect the monkeys to paw through your private photos & videos regardless of where you get your PC repaired.

I was going to use my last mod point to mark this insightful but I wanted to post in the discussion.

If you're stupid enough to load up your computer with child porn and take it in to the local kids at circuit city then you deserve to get caught - sure they'll punish him for kiddy porn but we can think of it as someone being punished for his own stupidity.

That said, we had a guy come into the computer store where I was working a summer job once. He looked like the stereotypical pedophile. He ordered a computer that was very bizarre - lots and lots of disks. That computer came back for the installation of a CD burner or some such and of course we happened to turn it on to do a test burn. He'd set it up to auto-load paintshop in thumbnail mode and we got an eyeful of all the guys "teen" porn. Not sure if it was legal or not but we just handed it to the boss and said "deal with it". I don't know what actually came of that.

He'll probably end up winning the privacy argument because consenting to installing a DVD drive is not consenting to having some local kid go through your personal files. He'll probably end up trying the tact of "but i had other things on there that are personal like banking records" or "i didn't put it there, the kids at the shop must have done it, really they must have, prove they didn't".

I guess it's his own fault really for not getting some smart mate to come round and do it instead and watching like a hawk to make sure he wasn't discovered.

The answer is routine encryption, but let's face it - if you need help installing a DVD drive, you're unlikely to have any idea what encryption even is....

Encryption is a double edged sword. In this case nobody would have noticed except for a few large files that they ended up burning to DVD and taking away. They wouldn't have been able to do anything with them and probably would have tossed the DVD in the bin unknowingly.

Encryption draws attention to you, particularly if you get into the habit of passing around large encrypted files. They can't do anything on that basis alone because there are legitimate uses for passing around encrypted files (perhaps I'm emailing my tax summary documents to my accountant) but they will certainly flag you as interesting if they ever see encrypted content.

There are laws in several countries now (UK, notably) that allow them to lock you up if you refuse to supply the key so that they can decrypt content they found. You're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't in some places, really.

The Real Question (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21772430)

Where do I find child pornography?

So this is why repairs take so long. (2, Funny)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772492)

Ten minutes to fix the DVD. Five days to go through your media looking for bank info, pictures of the missus to post on www.lonelyhearts.com etc.

obvious (1, Redundant)

User 956 (568564) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772126)

Circuit City employees discovered the child pornography while perusing Kenneth Sodomsky's hard drive

And they were TIPPED OFF BY HIS NAME

Re:obvious (5, Funny)

doyoulikeworms (1094003) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772314)

Yeah. What the fuck kind of name is "Kenneth"???

Re:obvious (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21772376)

CmdrTaco sodomskied my tight assholski last nightski and now I'm soreski and can barely sit downski

With a surname like that (-1, Redundant)

Malevolent Tester (1201209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772130)

Is it even worth presenting the evidence to the jury?

Not surprised they checked it (-1, Redundant)

jpetts (208163) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772138)

With a name like that, he's crying out to be investigated...

Will They Ever Learn? (1)

BlueMerle (1161489) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772164)

I find it hard to believe that anyone today would not know that the guy fixing your computer at bigbox_is_us is going to go through your drive.

Idiot... (4, Insightful)

Pedrito (94783) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772174)

That's like taking your car to get it repaired and being pissed off when you get arrested because the mechanic notices the 5 kilos of coke in your back seat. I mean, come on. The guy is an idiot and a criminal and he should go to prison.

You wanna break the law and not get caught? Use some brain cells. Sorry, if I take my computer to get it repaired (and I have), I yank the hard drives. ALWAYS. I have no expectation of privacy when I drop my computer off with a tech. I do it largely because I have client data on my computer and I would be liable if I took it in for repairs and someone stole the data. It's just common sense, and if a criminal can't amass enough common sense to do the same, well, they deserve to be arrested, tried, and convicted.

Re:Idiot... (2, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772272)

and when I've been arrested, my name trashed in the paper, and lost my job, and it turns out to have been sugar then what?

Re:Idiot... (4, Funny)

_Swank (118097) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772362)

then you get to sue people -- come on, this is america!

Re:Idiot... (3, Insightful)

HappySmileMan (1088123) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772406)

And the pornographic images of children that were on his hard drive will turn out to just be.........

Finish that sentence?

Re:Idiot... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772496)

And the pornographic images of children that were on his hard drive will turn out to just be.........

... files that were put there by somebody who doesn't like him that cracked his wireless router's encryption.

Just sayin' ...

Re:Idiot... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21772532)

Very young looking, legal-aged women?

Re:Idiot... (1)

LoadWB (592248) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772508)

If the cops are dumb enough to arrest you without testing the substance in the vehicle, which they can due at that point to reasonable suspicion, then they deserve to be sued.

Re:Idiot... (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772522)

You mean you don't think this child porn is authentic?

Re:Idiot... (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772560)

Then you ... sue the car place for hiring mentally retarded individuals that can't tell the difference between fine and coarse white powder?

Baking soda? Then I can see your point -- maybe.

Re:Idiot... (2, Insightful)

HappySmileMan (1088123) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772352)

Agreed, I can't see why this man is being called a victim, he had child porn, and last time I checked, child porn is illegal. It would make sense that he is to be treated with the full extent of the law for what he did.

What makes it worse is that the people who installed the drive are being made out to be the bad guys here, it said they looked for files they could use to test the drive, they weren't randomly looking through his pictures, they most likely just searched for any media files so they could try burn them, saw child porn and reported it, like any responsible person would do.

Re:Idiot... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21772382)

The loophole I see in this - the evidence could have been placed there. You bring a computer in for a repair, someone doesn't like you, they place files on your computer and call the cops. I would imagine, the more logical path would be you report it to the police, they then get a warrant to search your house and then make the arrest. The porn would just be used for probable cause in getting the search warrant. Is this what happened?

Silver lining? (1)

RingDev (879105) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772500)

I agree, the geek squad guys are not agents of the State, so anything they find should be fair game. But at the same time, there is likely some language in the contract for the work that determines what the geek will and wont do. And if that contract forbids the geeks from surfing peoples' hard drives, then he should be able to sue them for breach of contract... from prison.

-Rick

Re:Idiot... (2, Insightful)

Actually, I do RTFA (1058596) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772558)

Sorry, if I take my computer to get it repaired (and I have), I yank the hard drives. ALWAYS... It's just common sense, and if a criminal can't amass enough common sense to do the same, well, they deserve to be arrested, tried, and convicted.

If he knew how to yank the hard drives (and put them back in), would he need to pay someone to install his DVD drive? I suppose he could always go to Circuit City and get them to remove them and reinstall them... oh, oh, yeah.

Poor analogy (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772570)

More like you take your car into the shop and the mechanic finds something in a briefcase in the trunk where he had no purpose going.

Where do you draw the line between a computer tech snooping a hard drive and an ISP tech monitoring your email/downloads?

Re:Idiot... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21772594)

"when you get arrested because the mechanic notices the 5 kilos of coke in your back seat." ... especially if your last name happens to be Peruvianmarchingpowderski

Re:Idiot... (2, Funny)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772630)

expectation and guarantee are two different things. i have an expectation that he won't rifle through the papers in the trunk but i have no guarantee. that it's too important to chance that is really a different story, and doesn't excuse people messing about where they have no business. if he was so stupid as to leave it easily in sight, like in the back seat then it's a different story but my impression is that too many like to snoop. the chances of getting caught are slim to none and if you do stumble on something like this noone is going to ask too many questions. on the other hand, if i had something like that i'd probably guard it as top secret - you'd be in less pain if charged with treason than kiddie porn. p.s. lack of capitalization is because my shift keys sudddenly stopped working, time for a reboot...

I'm suprised (-1, Redundant)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772188)

no one has mentioned his name~

Car Analogy (0, Redundant)

spun (1352) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772202)

This is like bringing your car in for repair with a body in the trunk. Part of a repair person's job is to look things over, if they stumble on something blatantly illegal while doing so, well, don't be so stupid.

Mod this down, too, idiots (0, Offtopic)

spun (1352) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772260)

A car analogy is automatically redundant nowadays? You know you are going to get your mod privileges revoked in meta mod with petty moderations like that, and you can't touch my karma; I was here before the cap.

Re:Mod this down, too, idiots (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21772412)

A car analogy that has already been made [slashdot.org] is redundant, yes. That's what redundant means. But don't let facts get in the way of your temper tantrums; by all means continue to flog your persecution fantasies.

This happened to me... (4, Interesting)

mlawrence (1094477) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772204)

I was running a consulting company in Halifax just under a year ago, and a soldider from the armed forces had contacted me to fix his hard drive. While my tech was working on it, he discovered hundreds of gigabytes of porn, including many shots of young (pre-puberty) girls. The police had to get a search warrant for my office in order to legally seize the computer. The police did ask how we came across the images, because that was the most obvious way the case might have been thrown out. I never heard anything about the case again.

This is a funny excerpt (1)

Mawginty (882393) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772206)

The story quotes from the opinion this little gem:

The final factor we utilize is the volitional nature of appellee's actions. In this case, Appellee removed the computer from his home, took the computer to Circuit City, and left it there without either removing the videos containing child pornography or changing the titles of the videos so that they did not appear to have illegal content...Appellee was aware of the child pornography and could have elected to leave the store with the computer rather than risk discovery of the pornographic files.

So I guess this means that you have an expectation of privacy when you effectively negate the need for such an expectation and show that you do not in fact have such an expectation.

Re:This is a funny excerpt (2, Insightful)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772592)

Next you'll be saying that eyewitnesses reporting what they see to police is infringing on someone's privacy.

What's in a name? (0, Redundant)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772216)

Truth in advertising? How is it that people busted for sex crimes manage to have names like [Sodom]sk[y]?

Idiot (1)

denalione (133730) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772222)

He should be convicted simply for being stupid enough to leave child porn on his computer while its in the possesion of anyone else, especially geeksquad types. What a moron.

Re:Idiot (1)

HappySmileMan (1088123) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772466)

No, he should be arrested for having the child porn in the first place, I would've assumed more people on /. might actually notice that child porn is illegal.

I wonder (1, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772224)

this century has really started off great for USA. We have been attacked, and that has been used as a premise for all sorts of loss of rights. I wonder how much longer we citizens and patriots will put up with this. Sadly, about 2/3 argue for saving personal liberty, but are will to sacrifice others right to arm, while about 1/3 want the rights to arm, but are willing to give up the personal liberties for other Americans. How soon before ppl realize that a lose of 1 right leads to a lose of other rights. Sadly, many of the folks from WWII learned that, and use to fight this, but nearly all are gone. And those that remain do not care to keep fighting these battles.

Re:I wonder (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21772304)

What the FUCK are you talking about? You're a fucking fucktard.

Re:I wonder (1)

PolarBearFire (1176791) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772452)

Loss of rights? I think you lost your common sense, actually. It's the folks that fought WWII that put us on this course actually. They'are the ones who invented the phrase "There aught to be a law..." There always is going to be a balance in privacy rights. It's inevitable that with greater proliferation of technology that privacy will be intruded upon. Almost everyone has cell phones now and in the future all of them will be equipped with video, audio recording, gps and whatever else we come up with and soon they will be on 24 hours a day. The world changes, it's up to us to ensure that it changes for the better. The days of defining privacy as strictly privacy is over.

how far reaching is privacy? (4, Interesting)

moankey (142715) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772236)

It not like the employees installed a keylogger or monitoring software and discovered it, it was on his machine when they were asked to do work on it.

Its like crying privacy rights if I ask a plumber to come fix my kitchen sink, I take off to run errands, and when I get back I am arrested for having murdered victims in my bedroom. Did the plumber violate my privacy and thus charges be thrown out?

Someone with legal knowledge please clear this up.

Re:how far reaching is privacy? (1)

Loether (769074) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772516)

IANAL but I have watched every episode of Boston legal. :) I'm pretty sure you would only have possible recourse against the plumber. Your arrest and conviction for murder would stand. Once you were in prison for life you could possibly sue the plumber for something. Heck you may even win but it doesn't really matter if your ass is in prison for the rest of your life.

If I'm wrong let me know.

No sympathy (1)

AlphaDrake (1104357) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772238)

Well, aside from the fact that he should be prosecuted no matter how they found it, it's his own fault for keeping any kind of files on there after the big stories about bestbuy geeksquad techs copying files from machines getting repaired.

Now if the files were something personal like tax documents, or his credit card numbers, he might have a case I could sympathize with. But for something illegal like that, isn't it illegal to not report it?

Re:No sympathy (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772338)

"Well, aside from the fact that he should be prosecuted no matter how they found it, i"
that's not only Not a fact, it's a bad thing to do.

There are reasons for illegal search and seizure laws.

In this case your life could be completely destroyed by someone not trained to identify a type of crime.

You really want a society where anybody can paw through your stuff at anytime looking for a 'crime'?

sweet one more scumbag nailed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21772256)

circuit city aren't law enforcement and as such they don't need a warrant to snoop about... or look for files to test the work you requested for that matter... I'm pretty sure in most states much like photo developers if they see something illegal involving minors they are required to report it.

child pr0n viewers / child molesters are the lowest scum ever imagined... I hope the piece of shite rots in jail

attention perverts perhpas you should kill yourselves or stop looking at this sorta disgusting crap.. cause your going to wind up in jail..and you know what happens to scum like y'all in jail... oh and if you survive jail you will be shunned and worse the rest of your miserable life by outraged neighbors.

DIE MUTHERFUCKING CHILD MOLESTING SCUM DIE!!!!!

Re:sweet one more scumbag nailed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21772290)

I'm starting to realize why knee-jerk "think of the children" legislation is so easy to pass...

Business as usual (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21772276)

Don't you always lose your right to privacy when you give up any reasonable expectation of privacy? When you hand information over to strangers, you're effectively declaring it to not be private. This wouldn't even be notable if the guy sent a filing cabinet full of kiddie porn in for repairs.

idiot (2, Funny)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772292)

If this is true (what are this guy's first and middle names? Paedo Fill?) Then this guy is a moron. Giving a computer with stuff like that to whoever? His other charge should be 'being a moron'.

Not "Paedo Fill" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21772410)

...Peter Phil

Re:Not "Paedo Fill" (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772580)

well, he wouldn't want to be too obvious...

Re:idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21772484)

Actually, his first name is Kenneth.

I wonder... (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772294)

I wonder what consequences this has in regard to any snooping being done in the name of national security. A new "legal" way for the feds to take a look at what you've been up to that doesn't require any warrents/no-knock raids/phone taps etc...?

Legal computer repair? (4, Interesting)

mcrbids (148650) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772298)

AFAIK, when you turn information into your lawyer, it's protected by "client-attorney priviledge". Your attorney can know that you murdered somebody, and is under no obligation to tell anybody. (In fact, he/she could be sanctioned or disbarred if they DID tell anybody)

So, could you offer a bonded "secure" computer repair service through attorneys?

Re:Legal computer repair? (3, Interesting)

jdjbuffalo (318589) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772386)

They passed a law a few years ago saying that you have to report it to police if you find CP on someone's machine.

Re:Legal computer repair? (2, Interesting)

s.bots (1099921) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772528)

Yea, Joe Registered-Sex-Offender having his lawyer bring his computer in for repairs wouldn't raise any eyebrows... Plus, an attorney would charge at least a left testicle to repair your computer.

Re:Legal computer repair? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21772562)

Actually, there are many exceptions the the lawywer-client privilege. One of the most common one is the "Crime/Fraud" exceptions. Basically, you can tell your lawyer that you killed someone, and it is privileged, but if you tell your lawyer you are going to kill someone then it isn't. Depending on the jurisdiction, the lawyer may, in fact, be obligated as an officier of the court to turn in their client in that situation.

Re:Legal computer repair? (4, Informative)

AndrewM1 (648443) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772614)

No, you couldn't. In the US, at least, Attorney-Client Privilege comes in only when:

The communication relates to a fact of which the attorney was informed:

      1. by his client,
      2. without the presence of strangers,
      3. for the purpose of securing primarily either:
                  1. an opinion on law, or
                  2. legal services, or
                  3. assistance in some legal proceeding,


So it only matter when you're requesting their services for an opinion on law, legal services, or help in a legal proceeding. It'd be a bit of a stretch to claim any of those three if you had them install a DVD burner for you - hence, AC Privilege wouldn't apply.

Appeal It (1)

jdjbuffalo (318589) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772308)

Unless you sign something that says they can paw through your computer files at will, then no they don't have a right to go looking through your computer.

This needs to be appealed to a higher court because it sets a dangerous precedent. People who are well informed (Expert testimony) need to explain to the court how wide the implications are for decision such as this.

Curiosity Killed the Cat (1)

dunezone (899268) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772326)

This is like trespassing onto someones property by mistake and finding a dead body.

Re:Curiosity Killed the Cat (1)

_Swank (118097) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772426)

great analogy. except it's not at all like that.

There's a difference (3, Insightful)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772356)

Without reading the article, what I'm guessing they're saying is that the evidence is not inadmissible in criminal court, because the person installing the hardware (and software, i.e. drivers) had blanket permission to boot up the computer and use it for the purpose of doing the installation. If, in the course of performing the installs, the person stumbles upon evidence that a crime has been committed, you can't retroactively claim that they didn't have permission to use the computer.

What they're probably not saying is that you have no recourse if that person posts the embarassing (but legal) video you made for your spouse folder to YouTube, or even gossips about it.

Just from reading the summary, I have no reason to believe that there's been anything new happening here. The police are held to the same standard all the time.

How does it work for non-computer crimes? (1)

Experiment 626 (698257) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772366)

How does this kind of thing work when computers aren't part of the equation? Suppose you take your car in to the shop or have a plumber come to your house or whatever and the repairman finds your drug stash / illegal weapon / plot to overthrow the government / whatever it is you are hiding. Do you have some right to privacy? Are they obligated to report you?

Re:How does it work for non-computer crimes? (1)

_Swank (118097) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772556)

It seems to my that they're saying in the article that you do have some right to privacy, but if you don't make an effort to keep it private - you're essentially giving up that right. i.e. If i'm asking for an oil change only and a have kilo of cocaine sitting on the passenger seat, there should be reasonable expectation that in the course of changing my oil, the mechanic may look at the passenger seat. So I shouldn't be protected if he does. However, if I have it in a hidden compartment underneath the back seat, then the mechanic likely had to invade my privacy in order to find it - as that wouldn't be a normal place of interest for a mechanic changing my oil.

Of course, like most other, that's probably a terrible analogy.

the police didn't handle this very well (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772396)

I would have installed some key logger software to monitor him and find his sources.

Re:the police didn't handle this very well (0, Flamebait)

HappySmileMan (1088123) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772536)

I would have installed some key logger software to monitor him and find his sources
Ok so a lot of people here seem to show indifference, but you're the first who actually express an interest in AQUIRING child porn, well done.

Did the police get a warrant ? (4, Insightful)

BlueParrot (965239) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772436)

Ok, I'm guessing that the staff at the store were not police officers, so I find it hard to see how them doing something wrong would invalidate evidence gathered by the police, provided that the police did everything right. Now IANAL but it would appear to me that it basically boils down to what the police did after receiving the tip, or does US law actually say the police can't act on tips from the public if the public only knows what they know because of illegal actions? I.e, if I a crook breaks in to somebody's home to steal something, then finds a large quantity of drugs, I'd expect that the police would need a warrant to search the house, but surely the mere fact that the crook tipped them of doesn't mean they can't investigate? Thus I'm guessing that the real issue here is weather the police would have needed a warrant to have a look at the computer while it was in repair. What is precedence on that? Does the police need a warrant to search your car while it is being repaired, or can the mechanic just let them have a look around if they want to ?

Might have a right to privacy (2, Insightful)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772444)

He might actually have a right to privacy, however he would have to sue circuit city to get restitution for it being infringed. IANAL but I am a human being, and if someone who is not working at the behest of the police infringes on someone's rights but also discovers evidence and turns it over to the police, that evidence should be admissible. For example if a thief breaks into someone's home and discovers child porn and hands it over to the police, the prosecutor should be allowed to use that evidence. Now if there was evidence that the thief was working for the police (for example they routinely handed over evidence to the police) that would be a different story.

Yeah right... (4, Informative)

spiritraveller (641174) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772454)

"Circuit City employees discovered the child pornography while perusing Kenneth Sodomsky's hard drive for files to test the burner"

That's right your Honor, we were just looking for some jpegs and avis to test the burner with.

The ones that have flesh-colored icons work are best for testing burners.

Re:Yeah right... (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772618)

Mod parent up.

I bet that customer isn't coming back for a long time ;).

Makes me wonder if some Circuit City etc store has a stash of illegal porn just waiting to be discovered in a raid.

Simple Solution (3, Insightful)

sqrt(2) (786011) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772456)

Take out all the HDDs before you send it in to be repaired. This is prudent even if you're not concerned with privacy (but you should be) to protect your data from the idiots at the repair center that might finish off their work with a complimentary format and reinstall. I've seen that happen before. I don't have much sympathy for people who tried and failed to hide their child porn, but as with most losses of privacy it has a small impact on guilty people (who will just find a way around it) and a huge impact on the rest of us.

Atleast they didnt burn any music files (1)

uselessengineer (1172275) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772470)

So the company practice is to burn possibly copyrighted material and play it back to make sure it worked? How does the RIAA like their unlawful duplication or public performance when the employee plays the music [slashdot.org] ?

Is any person who gives their computer to a technicians also "making available [slashdot.org] " songs?

what about expectations for the store? (0)

m1ndrape (971736) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772482)

Ok, so they found child pornography? Does this mean stores are expected or obligated to report any infraction against the law? If so, what is the criteria that needs to be met before notifying the authorities (and which ones)? Without some kind of liability process in place to protect the store, who's to say that the drive wasn't tampered with after he dropped it off?

I don't like where this is heading. Big name stores already assume you are stealing from them by asking^H^H^H^H demanding to see your receipt before you even set one foot outside the store. Next? Law enforcement asking stores to volunteer turning their customers in.

Since you can't stop lawbreakers, and catching this way only encourages abusing innocent by-standards. The only real way to protect consumers is to have their home directory encrypted, but leave the rest of the system accessible and functional for these kinds of situations.

Another story along the same lines! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21772486)

When I was in college a customer brought in their computer because some software was having problems. Specifically his scanning software. Our technicians took a look at it and in the preview pane of his scanning software there was child porn! The decision was made to call the FBI and they came in and took the original hard drive and we replaced it with an exact copy. When the customer came by to pick up his computer I sold him a TON of other crap all knowing that the following day he was going to be arrested. I have no idea whatever happened to the customer but he never came back! haha ;)

Actually (2, Informative)

dippitydoo (1134915) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772510)

It's a DVD-BURNER!!!! I used to work in a Retail Tech shop where this EXACT thing happened. A few years ago of course in a different big box store. This was NOT uncommon. You open nero, throw in a blank dvd, find some files, and burn them to the DVD to TEST the BURNING. If it WASN"T a dvd burner, then yeah, something would be weird. But with all the news about Best buy employees scowering your hard drive for pr0n, WTF do you expect!? Let him burn I say.

Snooping? (1)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772520)

My first question, is why were the techs looking around for files to copy? They should be providing their own files via a USB drive.

Second question, when police search your house with a warrant, they can find and collect items that are not covered by the warrant 'if they were in plain sight' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Search_warrant#Exceptions/ [wikipedia.org] . Does having a file located in C:\a\b\c\c\a\a\e\f\g\h\pr0n.jpg constitute 'being in plain sight'? Or does the fact that the tech can use the search/find feature of my OS to locate all mp3s/.avis/.jpgs etc contitute 'in plain sight'. Note that a search warrant applies to officers of the law, not to Geeks on Patrol, Dorks at your Door, or Need a Nerd, Inc.

If his desktop image contained child pr0n, then I could understand even 'in plain sight' but digging through your files is no different than a cop digging through your closet and finding something in a shoebox.

Mr. Sodomy, oh ahem, I mean Sodomsky (-1, Redundant)

icepick72 (834363) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772538)

Is it just me or is it ironice that Sodomsky has the word "sodom" in his name?

Damned Tech Illiterates (1)

CardinalPilot (1057108) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772572)

Whatever the merits of Sodomsky's tastes, what got me was this portion of the court's opinion: "[T]he playing of videos already in the computer was a manner of ensuring that the burner was functioning properly." It's hard to tell who's the bigger idiot here, the CC employee for thinking that playing files off the hard drive would verify the operation of a DVD drive, or the court for accepting that kind of crap!

additional analogies for comparison (5, Funny)

ffflala (793437) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772576)

-The Car Analogy (obligatory): take to mechanic for repair, leave illegal material in an unlocked glovebox. Fuses are in the glovebox, mechanic finds illegal material. Arrested, trail court dismisses on evidentiary grounds, prosecution appeal currently pending. Al Sharpton somehow becomes involved in media coverage.

-The Kitchen Appliance Analogy: take mini fridge in for repair. Leave severed hand of (former) roommate in freezer. Hand is found when test of ice cube tray attempted. Convicted to 30 year sentence, paroled in 9 years. Begin anew with career as tech security consultant.

-The Post Office Analogy: Take large, heavy package to post office. Deliver using media mail rate, the cheapest shipping option. Miss sign claiming that any media mail package is subject to inspection by any PO employee. Box is lined with child pornography. Arrested, sentenced in federal court, killed in prison after 2 years.

-The 19th Century Tech Analogy: take daguerreotype plates in for annual silver halide tune up and focus lens coal-cloth polishing. Leave illegal woodcuts of "ladies of the night" wearing bloomers and baring arms and shoulders(!) underneath stack of plates. Illegal woodcuts & etchings located when technician reaches bottom of stack. Immediately jailed, lynched by angry torch-bearing mob by evening. Grave marker doubles consonants and adds "e"s to the ends of first and last names.

Do the crime, do the time (1)

icepick72 (834363) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772578)

No matter how it was found out the proof shouldn't be invalidated. Sure, go ahead and start a second case about invasion of privacy by Best Buy but don't mix it up with the dude who had child pornography.

Sodomsky? (1)

Undead Ed (1068120) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772616)

And I thought Uncle Gomorrah had it tough.

Ed

find -name "*.jpg" (2, Interesting)

purplepolecat (1108483) | more than 6 years ago | (#21772626)

"Circuit City employees discovered the child pornography while perusing Kenneth Sodomsky's hard drive for files to test the burner"

Sure they did !

I'm willing to bet that the first "diagnostic" these guys do when a PC comes in is search all drives for image files. They must have quite the collection by now.

This raises the question: what was to stop them from copying the incriminating files, and then "discovering" them on the hard drive of the next customer who dicks them around ? Could that have even been what happened in this case ?
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