Can A Computer Store Tech Look At Your Files?

from the yes,-within-some-limits dept

Declan McCullough is discussing a recent lawsuit where a guy brought his computer to Circuit City to have a new DVD drive installed. The technician who did the installation then wanted to test it out the software that came with it by playing a video. The tech found a video file on the hard drive and played it… only to discover that the video was child pornography. He called the police and the guy was arrested. The question before the court was whether or not the technician had a legal right to open a file on the hard drive. While the lower court said no, an appeals court has said that it was acceptable, because the guy had given access to the computer and the technician wasn’t randomly searching, but was performing a test in a “commercially accepted manner.” Of course, that seems a little odd too. If the job was to install a DVD player — shouldn’t the test have involved a DVD rather than a local file? However, it’s hard to argue against the ruling too strongly. The guy did know what was on his computer and handed it to others, knowing they’d have access to the machine.

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Companies: circuit city

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Comments on “Can A Computer Store Tech Look At Your Files?”

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Turtle Ilsand says:

Prosecute the pervert, Fire the tech

First let me say that the customer does deserve to be prosecuted and convicted. With that said, I as owner of a Pc service center, would fire the tech involved. You NEVER need to search a customers computer for video files in the course of installing a DVD drive. All functions of the drive and software the tech needs to verify for stability can be done with 2 tests. 1) play a DVD movie from a DVD the store has on the test bench for that purpose. 2) write files to a blank dvd, the source ideally from a dvd from the tech bench. Failing that the tech needs only use ICONS from the desktop. NEVER, EVER search the customers files. Had the tech worked for me, I would have fired him on the spot.

Tom says:

Re: Prosecute the pervert, Fire the tech

Your actions would be unfounded, sir. It is perfectly acceptable to play an internal file. Think about it. What associations of video play on the DVD player software (installed as part of the DVD installation)? Since file associations vary, each variation needs to be tested. If you have available on a thumbdrive a sample of each type, then that would be the preferred option, so as to leave alone internal files.

Keep in mind, under industry certifications, access to personal files are granted to the IT tech if the owner submits the hardware (& information) to the technician. What can be used in court and outside of the realm of the PC repair action is what is under scrutiny, not the technician.

Trevlac says:

No they do not, Lee. This sounds like what happens at least once a month at the place where I work. Do a job for someone and in the normal course of that job you discover porn. Sometimes weird porn… As long as it’s not illegal we don’t say anything though. But that technician was right to report it.

The only way the evidence could be thrown out is if the technician TOLD him they don’t report child pornography which would be entrapment. The point is, if it’s there, it’s ILLEGAL. Case closed.

brandon says:

what if...

Off the topic of child porn… burn in hell dude, seriously.

I’m more interested in the comments about these places searching for porn.

What if I took my computer to one of these places and told them specifically what they have access to to perform a particular job.

Then what if I had filemon logging all file access while the computer was in their possession. (filemon for windows… because most of these shops probably wouldn’t know what to do with linux [not you turtle… I’m thinking more of the chains])

And what if the logs indicated that a full file scan happened by something that shouldn’t do a full file scan (explorer.exe as opposed to antivirus, defrag, whatevs).

Who wins that court battle (civil)? (this is assuming that the place would accept the repair/upgrade job under my guidelines… which wouldn’t happen MOST of the time)

IsNoGood says:

Keep the tech

As person that over the yest has done a lot of tech work, I say that testing is the key to happy clients and testing means in this case data provided by the client, if not they might just say the store has a “special” DVD for testing and it dont work with his/her data.

This means ask the client to provide a test file, and only test that one.

Hard drive, never leave your HD in a computer going to a tech person, pull it out and keep it safe, its your data and its not needed for any test that might be going on unless its related to software, in that case hang around and if your not allowed find a smaller shop that will let you be a part of the solution, that’s not that easy, most tech guys dont want to let you know they know as little as you and are poking around until they stumble over the problem, in general 15 min is max for any problem, if more then ghost the drive with new image ( make a backup before handing in the computer now you know why)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Keep the tech

Hard drive, never leave your HD in a computer going to a tech person, pull it out and keep it safe…

Agreed. But there’s one detail.

People who are able to pull the hard drive (and put it back) are likely to be able to install a new DVD drive.

I’ll suggest that this bit of advice is of very limited usefulness…

Justin says:

Perhaps missing something?

While this guy is likely guilty, how can one say for sure? On the one hand techdirt advocates the need for valid forensic evidence in mp3 player suites, and then turns around and assumes the party is guilty because they have child porn on a computer they brought in. Isn’t it kind of likely that anyone knowing that there is child porn on the computer _wouldn’t_ ask someone to service it, without at least first deleting it? Who is to say that someone else didn’t put it on there? Unless that person verifies that he is the only one that has ever had access to the computer. Anyway, the double standard kind of annoyed me, sorry.

Wolfger (profile) says:

Re: Perhaps missing something?

While this guy is likely guilty, how can one say for sure?

By having a knee-jerk reaction. There is a large portion of our society in which anybody accused of this crime is automatically assumed to be guilty and deserving of a death sentence. No evidence is necessary for these people. They are so overwhelmed with a desire to “protect the children” that they will burn anybody at the stake. I sincerely hope somebody accuses them of the same crime some day, so that they might gain some appreciation for “due process” and “innocent until proven guilty”.

CubFx says:

Wrong - yes, Illegal - No

The technician was definitely in the wrong to open, view, or even peruse any files on the customer’s PC. The most he should ever look at are system files or program files associated with the specific problem he is attempting to resolve. If additional files are required for testing, they should be provided by the technician or support company. For that matter, the only way you can know for certain something is working is by using a control file.

That said, I do not believe it was in any way, shape, or form illegal for the file to be viewed. Further, the technician did the correct thing, ethically, morally, and legally, by reporting it. He had full access to the PC given to him by the owner of the PC. The file was not encrypted, hidden, or password-protected. In my opinion, as a average person who IS NOT A LAWYER the arrest and conviction should be upheld.

If I were the technician’s supervisor, I would sit him down and tell him he did the right thing in reporting this to the authorities, but that he should not look at user’s files. The privacy issues are significant, and while he did a good thing in helping take this person down, he still should not have looked at a customers private files.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Do you read CubFX?

You said:

“The most he should ever look at are system files or program files associated with the specific problem he is attempting to resolve.”

He picked a random video file, most likely from “My Videos” if its Windows XP, to play on the software that was installed with the DVD player. It’s perfectly normal, especially since most places don’t have a ‘test’ DVD of their own to use.

It’s kind of important from a customer service standpoint to make sure what you are doing actually works, otherwise you won’t get more customers.

Tony says:

re: Trevlac

No trevlac, Case not closed! While I agree that the discovery of child porn MUST be reported, the tech had no business “discovering” what was there. True, the guy’s a sicko and needs to serve time but the tech should only have tested the DVD software with a DVD. I think the appeals court got it wrong. The tech didn’t know there were video files on the PC, he was HOPING there were. He had to do a search for “*.avi”, etc. It’s “commercially acceptable” to use a DVD to test a DVD drive. I think the appeals court made it’s ruling biased by the fact the slug had kiddie porn on the machine to begin with which is a poor application of law; But they are human after all and I can at least understand why they’d be willing to overlook the techs misconduct, but overall it was a bad call by the appeals court.

I agree with Turtle Ilsand. Prosecute the pervert, fire the tech.

SpecialCase says:

Depends on the agreement he signed...

Wonder if this is a good analogy:
Suppose I drop my car off to get fixed at my local mechanic’s garage. Inside the locked glove compartment is a package of powdered coke and a loaded Glock with the serial number filed off. My mechanic, during the process of fixing the car opens my glove compartment and sees the contraband and calls the police. The police seize the vehicle and arrest me when I come in to pick up the car.

Is the evidence admissible in this case? Or is this different?

brandon says:

Re: Depends on the agreement he signed...

SpecialCase, I’m not entirely sure given the 3rd party (mechanic), but I’ve always heard that if it’s locked.. the police will more than likely need a warrant.

I would tend to think that the police could use the evidence, but may have to arrest the mechanic for b&e. Then you may have a nice civil suit against the mechanic/garage when/if you get out.

but what do i know.

BTR1701 (profile) says:

Re: Depends on the agreement he signed...

> Is the evidence admissible in this case?

Yes, the evidence is admissble. What people seem to be confusing here is criminal prosecution vesus civil liability. Yes, the police can use the evidence against you that your mechanic found. The 4th Amendment only protects against warrnatless searches by the government, not private individuals. Therefore, the evidence is admissible against you at trial (unless the government/police asked the mechanic to search your car, in which case he’s now acting as an agent of the government, not a private individual).

However, even if you’re convicted, you still would have a civil claim against the mechanic for searching your vehicle without your permission.

Anonymous Coward says:

“However, it’s hard to argue against the ruling too strongly. The guy did know what was on his computer and handed it to others, knowing they’d have access to the machine.”

Are you kidding me?!

It’s hard to argue too strongly against an invasion of privacy, because in this one particular incident it involved a guy who was into some really nasty shit?

It’s either an invasion of privacy and should not hold up in court … or it isn’t one and it should hold up in court. It is entirely irrelevant what the guy is suspected of doing.

Clayton Quinnell (user link) says:

Happens All the Time

I used to work for a computer store / repair facility, and one of my co-workers always snooped in the “my documents” folder. It pissed me off. However true story, I was sent on a service call to a guys house to work on his Dell’s sound. When he fired up his computer there was a naked 10-12 year old girl on his desktop. I didn’t know what to do. It made me sick, I had a hard time completing the job, I went home for lunch and told me girlfriend (now wife), and her mom. They told me to report the man, so I called the F.B.I. I don’t know what ever happened… but whats the law on that one?

Paralaon "LLC" says:

Re: Happens All the Time

I am consistantly on the look for ethical computer repair personal do to the fact tha I deal with the development of businesses which have a number of confidential documents related to its development. I recently had general service done a computer yet realized that I had development information on the computer that I was working on from home.

I discused the confidential nature of any information related to the computer only in terms of and agreement that all information is confidential. When I came to pick up the computer before leaving my office the computer tech qouted ethics as a means in which he operates his business.

I returned the following day with an All rights reserved confidentiality agreement for his signature and he refused to sign it until he can have his attorney view the document. While I understand professionalism he wasn’t professional enough to offer me a confidentially agreement yet he did make the mistake of signing the agreement followed by the wording “refuse to sign unitl I speak with an attorney” thereby acknowledging a verbal understanding of the agreement.

I say this only to say regardless the reasoning be mindful of what you have on your computer when intrusting it to a third party. By the way this tech was my cousin… And as for the tech/pron situation he did the right thing by tuning him in because the child he might have violated next might have been your own, however knowing that it is a regular practice for computer repair tech to look into to your infromation what ever the reason. The next business that I will develop is a ethical computer store.

Matt says:

Agree and disagree.

I have to say that I agree with most of what has been said. Prosecute the pervert, and fire the tech.

Most people are saying to test the DVD drive you should you a DVD. Agreed. But to test the software that the “Customer” asked to have installed, you should test all features. Including the feature that the software will play videos off the hard drive. The tech shouldn’t have searched the computer for files, instead they should have informed the customer of the feature, and offer to test it with the customer at the time of pick up. There are too many video formats out there now that a computer tech cannot tell the customer that the files on their HDD will work without testing them.

You may agree or disagree as you wish. Those are my two cents.

Cyryl says:

Re: Agree and disagree.

Your two cents are wrong and you can not shrug that fact off with a simple disclaimer.

The software came with the DVD drive. It should not have been used to test ANYTHING but the product that it came with.

Once again…that was the DVD drive.

We techs DO NOT concern ourselves with all of the possible file formats and all that other BS. That is NOT our problem. It is NOT our concern what file formats the user is exposed to or may use – UNLESS they bought software that is relevant to them and they bought it EXPRESSLY for that purpose.

Anyone in the tech support industry knows the rules… Do ONLY what is needed. The rest is left to the user to either figure out on their own…or PAY to be taught.

You can NOT argue that there is any kind of correlation between the DVD drive and a file that existed on the system prior to his having brought the computer to the store. The terms of the job did NOT state that the tech was supposed to play any video files.

Whenever I do a backup, I have ALWAYS ignored the contents of the folders. I have only ever copied the folder ITSELF without ever having looked into the folder. If there were issues with specific files, I informed my customer before proceeding in any way. If they wanted it fixed, troubleshooted, etc, I got THEIR ok to deal with it. (Some customers get PISSED if you look in their pictures folder. You wouldn’t believe some of them!)

You’re just another zealot who calmly shrugs off the specifics of enforcing the law.

Matt says:

Re: Re: Agree and disagree.

Cyryl, You may want to re-read my post. Nowhere in the post did I suggest that you search the computer for any files. I said you should inform the customer of the feature, and offer to test it with the customer present. No where does it that break any laws, and if the customer is still stupid enough to get caught in that senario, then that’s their problem.

If you go the extra mile, you get repeat customers. Frankly, business is built off repeat customers. If you do only what you have to do, you are telling your customers “Thanks for your money, come back if you want, we really don’t care.”

Cyryl says:


Not to defend the idiot with the child porn on his computer…in the LEAST bit… (So don’t talk shit on me for my argument. I DO NOT support it. Even when a friend of mine was recently sent to PRISON for 10 years for the same goddamn thing.)

But I guarantee you that any paperwork he signed at the store did NOT give any permissions to view personal files. ONLY TO BACK THEM UP at most. (I’ve worked in the industry. They’re very particular about it.)

In light of that, I must apparently remind all of you that there IS a little document written on centuries-old parchment that is currently on display in Washington DC…

It’s a little thing called, “The Constitution”. There is a little thing called “The Fourth Amendment” which protects us against illegal search and seizure – WITHOUT A FEDERAL WARRANT. Said warrant may be issued under “reasonable” measures.

A document stating that Circuit City can install a drive does not give express permission to obtain evidence against this man; whether purposefully or inadvertently.

As mentioned in the article, the employee had no business viewing the personal files of the user as he was installing a DVD DRIVE. The software may have come with the DVD drive, and it may play video files other than the type found on the DVD disc… But the employee’s objective was to install the DVD drive. Any software associated with this device should have been used to test ONLY the drive.

People… I realize that people commit crime every fucking day… But it seems that ‘in the name of justice’ that we are more and more often conveniently brushing aside the principles for which I myself was a soldier.

You people really need to brush up on some American history.

Here. Educate yourselves.

The Arbiter (profile) says:

Re: Federal Warrants

Um, Sorry Cyryal, but your interpretation of Search and Seizure law is a bit lacking. 1) It does not require a Federal warrant. Most state law is more than sufficient to meet the need here. 2) A civilian, acting on his own, needs no warrant what so ever. Search and Seizure laws pertain to the gov’t. If i as a citizen, look thru your car (to reference an earlier example), or thru your computer files and finf something, I can call the police, they can then search the entire thing WITHOUT a warrant. However, if I as a police Officer, (which I was for many years until blessed retirement) stop you for something, and want to go thru your car on a suspicion, I would need wither a) your permission, or B) a warrant. The same tings applies to computer files.

As a private citizen, I might be held civilly for the intrusion, I would still not be need a warrant unless i was acting as an agent of the Gov’t

xxboxers says:

Re: Ummmm

Most of my customers have the same complaint when they drop off their pc for service: it’s acting funny. That’s not one that can be solved in 15 minutes and you can’t guarantee what files might be accessed in the process.

Cases like this are the reason that my clients must sign a document that tells them it is possible during diagnosis and repair that any file could be accessed, and that any unlawful materials found on the drive must be reported to the police.

Even with this clearly spelled out to them, I have several customers a month that I have to turn in.

Carter says:

Re: Re:

This is where the letter of the law can actually work against the purpose the laws were put in place for: to protect the freedoms of citizens and the innocent.

We obviously have two evils at work here: The tech guy who was snooping where he should not have been snooping; The abominable person behind the child porn.

It should not matter how the information was obtained in deciding punishment, the fact is the information was obtained and it showed that someone was violating something beyond the conventions of human legalities. The only question at hand should be, “Is the guy who brought the computer in responsible for the despicable content?” If so, appropriate punishment is due. This is how the purpose of the laws can be protected instead of the letters of the law upheld. The constitution was designed as a tool to guide our thinking not control it. Human conscience and common sense have to play a role in the decision making process that results in intelligent action. We are not computers following exact logical statements and restrictions.

Words are nothing without meaning and the meaning of different words change over time in different cultures and under different contexts. So an understanding of purpose has to come into play rather than the letters put on paper. We are not proofing calculus formulas. Throw into the mix of letters a little bit of sense and judgment and you have a functioning society capable of making all the right choices and not debating whether or not a man should be punished for such an obvious violation of natural law. The law that is apparent to everyone in every culture and every time. That voice inside your head that says, “this is wrong” or, “this is right.” Hopefully everyone agrees that child pornography is wrong. From there it is a simple path in reasoning to reach a correct conclusion to action.

Bottom line:
In the interest of protecting the children victimized, the responsible and participating parties need to be punished or prevented from committing the crime again.

In the interest of the constitution, find out who is responsible for the violation assuming the customer is innocent until PROVEN guilty. Don’t spread rumors and speculation via media and propaganda so that the whole country is unfairly biased against a potentially innocent man to the point he can’t receive a fair trial. No one seems to understand the full story behind it all. It sounds like the computer could have been used by other people; It does seem at least logical that someone wouldn’t knowingly bring in a computer with grossly illegal content so readily available though I would have to say I have seen people do dumber things.

In the interest of a consumer’s basic and expected confidentiality for the requested service performed, the technician should be reprimanded appropriately by the store owner unless the store’s policy is to peruse a customer’s personal files unnecessarily, which is obviously the case here according to the experts above. If it is acceptable store policy then consumers should be made aware that any of their personal files may be viewed for no specific commercial purpose and possibly the pleasure or tastes of the technician that happens to be assigned to work on the device.

In the interest of encouraging appropriate and correct action despite the potential for self harm, give the store technician a thumbs up for his inappropriate actions leading to the prevention of more heinous crimes. Dumb luck and randomness in wrong action served a good purpose. Hopefully he learns the right lesson and doesn’t think he should continue pursuing the violation of people’s privacy.

These routes of action will take our country one very small step closer to regaining the decision making process that seemed so much simpler in former times – as conveyed in readings and conversation not direct experience. These were times apparently when it was not a question whether a guilty party deserved to be punished, but whether the suspected party were actually guilty or not. Ill willed legislation, lawsuits, tyrants, criminals, and other filth seem to have infected the thinking of our race like a disease and can only be cured the old fashioned way – not mass homicides and anarchy – increasing the number of individuals making enough individual correct decisions over time to change the trend from muddled and doubtful thinking to purposeful and meaningful thinking. The exact lines and letters do not need to be the focus, because what are they except symbols and condensed representations for meaning and purpose. The bigger picture and the actual purpose or meaning needs to be the focus. This will alleviate enough brain power to actually see what is going on. This issue might have been a little bit difficult to wrap a mind around, but 99% of the decisions people have to make in life are very simple, black & white or unimportant/irrelevant.

Child porn: wrong
Assuming innocence until proven guilty: right
Invasion of privacy: wrong
Preventing crime: right

Join the revolution in correct and simple thinking. It will not be a step backward in the line of progression I assure you modernests and progessionists; It may be a step backward in time though.


Citizen disgruntled with the reasoning and decision making power of the only rational species on earth

pRtkL xLr8r says:

How do you prove the tech didn't put it there?

How exactly does one prove that the tech didn’t put the file there? I mean think like this: a tech gets a PC in of a guy he knows personally, and hates (unknowingly of the guy who brought the PC in). The tech plants the file, changes the creation/modification dates, and says “Hey officer look what I found.”

Not that I think that’s what happened — this is more the scenario for a Law and Order show — but stranger things have happened…

Cyryl says:

That is to say…

We can’t just let our emotions flare up and start prosecuting people left and right. The Constitution was made with the realization that without an article to contain justice and to guide it in the right direction…

…that ZEALOTS would eventually create chaos and call it “Justice”.

So how many of you are going to start railing against me “for great justice”?

How many of you are going to side with the biased soccer moms of our country just because YOU deem it necessary and righteous…all the while ignoring the specifics of our laws and creeds?

You all may be perfectly willing to ignore the wisdom of our forefathers and KILL the man for having had the material on his drive… But did he actually HURT anyone? Did he do anything more than contribute to the exploitation of a young person?

Then you should also be holding the parents of these children EQUALLY responsible for allowing the lives of their children to fall into these circumstances.

Once again, I am not saying that I support this kind of activity in any way, shape or form… But it just PISSES ME OFF when I sit here and watch so many people IGNORANTLY bleeting for justice…like the lambs that you’ve all become.

You forget what REAL justice is…because this country has ALSO brushed it aside for the sake of convenience, status and LET’S NOT FORGET…for GOD.

*rolls eyes*

I love the christians…and how they are so willing to persecute ANYONE in the name of justice. They claim to live by the very laws that they created ‘under God’, but CONTINUALLY fail to recognize the specifics of these very laws they claim when it comes time to.

Whatever. I’m just ranting now. You get the point.

Don’t be so quick to dismiss the rights of others if you’re going to be so quick to think of doing so. EVERYONE is [supposed to be] innocent UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. So don’t point your finger until you know the truth.

It makes you a hypocrite.

What if it wasn’t that man’s fault? What if a buddy happened to browse around on his computer and download a bit of that garbage without his knowledge?

THAT would be where the right to a FAIR TRIAL would come in. Now wouldn’t it?

So leave it to THEM to figure his guilt.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Take some of your own words in advice, don’t let your emotions flare up. Your ranting determents from a decent argument. While according to President Bush (Jr) the U.S. Constitution is “just a goddamn piece of paper,” to most of us it is nearly sacred. The guy is a creep, but his 4th Amendment rights were potentially infringed upon .

I, like most of the commentators here, have not read the original article or any of the information about the trial/hearing and so on. It IS possible though, that the defendant was informed at the time he dropped his tower off that files from his computer may be used for test purposes to make sure his new DVD-ROM player and its accompanying software (which in all honesty probably does play files from the hard drive in multiple formats) were working appropriately.

It seems unlikely to me, but its possible. Given the probably ignorance of the judges when it comes to the tech field the guy probably is right to keep appealing.

Tottaly deserves to be punished for being a freaking pedo’ but as the big C says, everyone has rights in this country.

pRtkL xLr8r says:

I just thought of an even worse scenario...

After my last comment, I just thought of something even more horrible yet likely; what if some fool comes out with a computer virus that replaces random pictures on your PC with child porn pics provided in the virus file? Remember that virus awhile back that aimed at media files like mp3’s ruined them? This wouldn’t be much different to implement, yet the effects would be devastating to say the least…

silentsteel (profile) says:

How about this scenario?

I was working on a computer one day that was brought into our shop that would not boot. The customer wanted all files in four or five different directories saved, if possible. I tried slaving the hard drive to a test machine, but still could not access the drive. We had recently downloaded a trial version of recovery software so I used that and could view a list of his drive. I could not, however do anything with the directories he wanted recovered with this trial version. We ended up with the full version of the recovery software and I was able to recover the directories he wanted recovered. It was suggested, due to how important some of this data was, to verify file for file, that everything in the directories was recovered. In the course of doing this, I stumbled across a subdirectory of child pornography. Even then, I did not view these files. I sought out the supervisor who suggested verifying files to see what company policy was. It ended up that he was contacted by the police station here. I do not know what ended up happening after that.

lisa says:

you’re forgetting that the rules against illegal search and seizure are specifically focused on the authorities. So if a policeman busts into your house without a warrant with no probably cause then evidence is not admissable. However if say a thief breaks in and sees something wrong and on the unlikely off chance that they reports it that GIVES the police porobably cause. The public is not under the same restraints as the police. While the police would be obligated to arrest the person who broke into the house (if they coudl find them) the fact that they have probably cause means the evidence is admissable. The only question is if the tech did something illegal or not.

zazie says:

I remember...

Working at Staples and finding Midget porn on a customer’s computer. We chuckled about it for a moment and went back to work. Child porn though poses a different problem. I think that for a tech to stumble across porn is very possible but there are certain expectations of confidentiality with regards to what is on a client’s computer. I say let the lawyers sort this one out…

Anthony says:

Not defending the perv, but ...

People keep very private files on their system. There could be a video of himself or his wife involved in various activities. If the tech just picks a random file then he could see very private activities. He has no right to do that. Any service centre that does not have video files to test with aren’t worth going to. No file should be open without the explicit permission of the customer.

Jo says:

I work at a big box store as a technician and it is store procedure to report any porn found while performing our work. I think the tech was out of line in searching for video files to play, but I can see a situation where that would be viable (a girl brought in her comp because MovieMaker wasn’t recording with sound; she gave us the go-ahead to use the clips on her computer as testing material but we used only the windows “default” sample clips, which I’m positive he probably could have used too–or put on a USB drive to use instead of searching his customer’s system!). I check folders to make sure I’m not copying empty things (eg my pictures only having the sample photos in it?) and if they’ve got it set on “thumbnail” then yes, you are going to see stuff you didn’t intend to. Sort of like a photo developer. They don’t want to see it, but sometimes they do, and when they do… It gets reported.

But as a tech it’s your job to click “back” and ignore and just copy the files over (unless they’re illegal, at which point need to be reported); and not deliberately search out stuff (ala Best Buy).

Zech says:

I run a small computer business; I do all types of repairs on software. Never during any repair, or installation of any program (or hardware such as in this case) did I ever have to even look at the users personal files. The only time I place myself close to personal files is when I do data backups & to be quite honest, I use unstop so I don’t even see them really, I let it run and when it’s done I’m done. I have to admit though, if I were to see blatant child pornography or something of that nature on a computer, I’d have to report it. Or atleast call the customer and speak with them about it regarding whether or not they knew they had it on their computer or not… (Trojans can be pretty nasty, on unsuspecting consumers.)

Child pornography is a disgusting practice, by the way. Sick.

Ted Little says:

help me with the difference..

I would like to know if this is different because of the computer. Say, if I see a neighbor watching or maybe filming child porn in the privacy of their home but the blinds were open when I was working in my yard. Better yet if you are hired by that person as a handy person to fix stuff in their home. I also wonder how police ever solve some crimes. Oh I know, citizens report what they see folks, tech or not. I think the article has more to do with, like already mention by someone, probable cause with the police receiving a search warrant. I think something is missing from the original article.

Kevin says:

To make a long story short

The tech was absolutely in the wrong. What he did was a violation of professional ethics and he should be fired.

The customer was in the wrong. What he did was illegal and he should be prosecuted.

The evidence is admissable. Had the customer taken the PC to a police/government owned service center it would have constituted an illegal search of his hard disk. But this case involved an unethical search of his hard disk that resulted in him being reported to the police. The police then had either a) probable cause or b) justification for a search warrant and could obtain the evidence legally. No way the evidence will be thrown out.

Of course, the customer could probably make a case that the unethical/unprofessional actions of the service center and technician have caused him harm and could sue them for something. He probably wouldn’t win have a strong case unless he were acquitted of the child porn charges.

Rob says:

User/ Client files.

I have been doing home repairs for at least 7 years now, 5 of them paid. The first 4 or 5 years of repairs were primarily caused by a significant amount of spyware and/or viruses. As most of us in the computer industry know, this stuff primarily comes from porn sites, music download programs, software break sites, or survey sites. These scans, particularly antivirus scans and Adaware scans shows you each and every file being scanned. If these scans find things in the folders that store the questionable material that is unable to be removed, naturally you’ll go into that folder to see what’s up. I’ve seen plenty of gay porn, thanks to living in New York City, gay capital of the east coast. I don’t care, gays are rich. Have I seen anything showing minors? Yes, 1 picture of a preteen at a beach, then I did a thorough search of the entire hard drive, that was it. It was downloaded from the net. That guy was my friend at the time. I kept going back and forth on whether or not to report it. In the end I didn’t because he was my friend and it was one picture of someone in a crowd of adults. I give my clients the tools they need to stay safe, and for the most part they stay safe.
As for the story itself, yes you’re signing away your system in those retail stores, but for a dvd drive test, there’s no reason to hunt for a video on the system. Borrow a dvd and play it in the drive.

Rich Kulawiec says:

I just thought of an even worse scenario.

This (use of malware to install child porn on
unsuspecting users’ systems is worse.
But that’s not the scary part — this is:

It’s already happened.

One of the tactics used by spammers to avoid having their
web sites shut down is to distribute them across many zombie’d
Windows systems and then use various DNS techniques (such as
fast flux) to direct traffic to them. This approach is favored when
the content in question has dubious legal status in the jurisdiction(s) involved, e.g., child porn, drugs, gambling, etc.

It’s unlikely that the former owners of the systems being
used for this purpose have any idea what’s going on — but
were they so unfortunate as to have their systems serviced
by a similarly unethical tech (who, BTW, should be fired on the
spot) then they might well find themselves in the same situation.

The problem is that many so-called “forensics experts”
have yet to figure out (or admit) that this problem exists on
a massive scale — despite object lessons like the Julie Amero
case, that have served to highlight what some of us have said
for years.

Ferin says:

Not too much to object to

The ruling seems fairly sound to me. The guy handed over his computer to the tech, the tech checked it in a fairly normal manner.(I usually bring some videos of various formats and codec types to do checking, but whatever) He called the cops when he found the nasty stuff. The guy had ample oppurtunity to encrypt the files or store them externally to the device before handing it over, and the tech wasn’t being overly snoopy.

I do agree with Rich though, there is deifnately some potnential for infected PCs to end up having some bad stuff stored on them. However, that’s really a point for defense to bring up at trial I would think.

J (profile) says:


Something like this happened to me at Compaq. I worked in IT and we were required to service Compaq machines that the users brought from home if they used them for work at home. Somebody brought in a machine and demanded that we fix it. It was infected with various virii. Among the many folders on the desktop that had infected files was a folder containing about 2 gb of kiddy porn. the FBI was called and we never heard from the guy again. I mean, we NEVER heard from or about him again.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Prosecute Pervert, but fire the tech?

Fire the tech?
To quote Planes, Trains, & Automobiles:
“If your kid spills the milk, what do you do, beat him?”

Unless you specifically trained the tech and told him NOT to EVER look through the users files for testing something, then you have zero basis to fire the guy. He was just doing his job. If you have no policies against it that you notified him of, then the best you could do is make a policy about it and just have a chat with him.

But hey, if you want the bad PR of jumping straight to firing the tech for following the law and reporting it, you go ahead. The only way you will stave that off is if you have policies in place, and the tech knew damn well about it.

When I was working as computer repair a couple years back, we were told that we do not specifically go searching for files. BUT, if you happen to stumble across something like this in the due course of work, it gets reported. Did not search any persons computer for anything though unless they requested it backed up and didnt know where it was.

Best phone issue I ever helped solve: RJ-45 mystically shoved into an RJ-11 port. How that lady did that is still beyond me.

moses says:

Re: Prosecute Pervert, but fire the tech?

Wow, well I want to know explicitly what the agreement signed was when this guy brought in his computer! If it says they have access to all files, or even a random execution of one … fine. If it gives no permission … fire the tech. Sure the guy is sick but this is America lol, don’t look at the conditions first, look at the case. Tech opens file without permission, (maybe?) or tech goes out of the guidelines of the specified job. (Fire)

It’s nice everyone wants to say this guy is sick and perverted and should burn. Can’t say I don’t agree, but that’s a moral dilemma, it should not make it a legal dilemma.

dan says:

Did you know that you will end up on being a registered sex offender if you are arrested for urinating in public? The registration list does not say what you did, only that you are a sex offender. Your life could be ruined with a simple drunken mistake. With that, local standards dictate whether something is pornography. Suppose what the tech saw was a video of the man’s daughter playing naked in a kiddy pool. Is that pornography? I think you are all jumping to conclusions about a person being guilty. He was arrested. Care to move on to whether he was convicted of the crime before jumping to “burn in hell”?

justme says:

Re: Re:

There are a lot of cases like that.
If someone who is 19, and his gf is 17.
Parents call cops. Statutory Rape, then the offenders list.

Now this poor bastard is hosed for the rest of his life.

This is the problem of knee-jerk laws and lists.
What happens if, like a case recently, when your name is mistakenly confused with someone else’s details.
Some guy was convicted of killing someone under the assumption that this guy was ‘really’ bad.According to the list.

Unsure if it was murder, or attempted.

Dan says:

We don't know he was snooping

I disagree with everyone’s opinion that the tech was in the wrong because he was “snooping” or wahatever. We don’t know that.

It’s just as likely that the customer had the porn stored in the ‘My Videos’ folder. The tech went to the first logical place to find a test file and played the first file he clicked on.

I know to some of you that’s not the point, but my point is, anyone who is stupid enough to leave illegal porn in a standard video folder on a PC, deserves to get arrested.

Ryan says:

Did anyone read the original article?

I think that those that are waving the constitution around in here need to think about the circumstances surrounding the discovery. Let’s think about the actual circumstances surrounding the discovery, and a few other likely circumstances.

First, what happened:
It seems that the software in question performed the search for video files. Now, think about Nero 7 and/or Roxio 8 or 9(the previous versions). All 3 have organizing and media library functions. And in all likelihood, all three would prompt you to search the computer (at least the user’s home folder) for media files-pictures, music, video-if not during setup then when accessing the library function.

According to the cour docs, when the list of files came up, the FILENAME of the file announced not only that the file was porn but listed a male name an indicated an age of 13 or 14. How that’s possible I don’t know, but the police would easily have been able to verify it. In this case, it doesn’t seem like the tech went out of his way to find porn. Doesn’t seem like he was snooping. If you read the court’s decision, it seems very balanced.

Now let’s think about another situation. A client asks you to back up their files. Their My Documents folder is 6 GB, and they don’t have a dual-layer burner. As a tech, you HAVE to open their folder to see what’s taking up the space. Windows Explorer tells you that there’s only 240MB of files in the root of My Documents. So you have to go through each folder and see how big it is. The quickest way to do this is not to go to properties but to open the folder and glance at the status bar. The first one you go for is My Pictures because you’ve done this 1,292,689 times before, and you know that’s where most of it is. That only yields about 1GB. Then you hit music. 20MB. This is starting to get strange. You hit videos. Bam. Thumbnail mode. Nasty stuff smacks you in the face.

Now what do you do? If you’re a person who watches porn, you might be inclined to peruse the files, and the filenames and/or thumbnails may reveal child porn. If you’re like me, you quickly switch to icon, list, or details mode. Then you look at the size of the folder. It’s 5GB. Even that won’t fit on one DVD. Now you have to look at the files’ sizes and filenames.

Here’s another one. You install a DVD player. You install whatever bloatware burning program came with it, and it changes associations of file formats. You still want to make sure that DiVX or other codecs still work with the new player, but before you do that, you want to see if this guy’s doing anything with video. If he’s not, there’s no need to worry. So you do a quick search for video to see if there’s any H264, Xvid, Divx, or whatever.

One more for good measure: suppose you get a computer that has spyware on it. After cleaning it, I usually take a look at the browsing history to see if it’s obvious where they picked it up. Often it is, and I can tell my customer to stop playing texas hold ’em at that particular website, or whatever.

In any of those situations, you might run across porn (I know I have a number of times). And you might see a filename, thumbnail, page title, or email fragment that suggests something illegal. What do you do if you find it? Do you open it? Certainly not if the customer is nearby. But what if they’re gone? Most probably would.

If you’re wrong, and it’s “regular” porn, then you can just go about your business. If it’s something freaky, but not illegal, congratulations, you just gave yourself nightmares for a week. If it’s child porn or something else that’s illegal, then you call the cops.

But if you DON’T open it, do you call the cops just on suspicion from a filename? This guy could have a sick sense of humor, or just be testing you to see if you snoop through his stuff. Could be episodes of Booh-Bah renamed to make you feel like an idiot.

Could you live with yourself if you let some child predator go when you could’ve called it in?

I’ve personally had a couple clients whose computers were so full of sick (but not illegal) porn that they insisted I back up, and wanted to foist on me (“Make a copy for yourself if you want”), and I WISH I could’ve called the FBI.

M Cooper says:

Bad cases make bad case law...

It won’t be long before you see laws and procedures requiring “authorized repair persons” i.e. minimum wage morons at Best Buy to run automated search tools for pornography to “protect the children” and in the process perhaps uncovering things such as compromising pictures of your wife, girlfriend, yourself, etc. or worse: a picture you took of your kid taking a bath, and are then reported and have to defend yourself against accusations of child pornography.

The guy should be prosecuted, but a computer tech should be F.I.R.E.D. for going through a customer’s files, regardless of intent.

Rich Kulawiec says:

Lack of forensic savvy

Suppose we put aside for a moment the question of whether
the tech should or should not have accessed the files in question.
And let’s suppose that the tech found files that meet the legal
definition of child porn in the appropriate jurisdiction. Now what?

The first thing that comes to mind is “how can it be proved
that the tech didn’t plant them?”. The answer to that is “it can’t”.
There’s only the tech’s word. Given that tech had unfettered
access to the system’s software and hardware, there’s no way
to prove that he did or didn’t.

The second thing that comes to mind is “how can it be
proved that the putative owner of the computer is the person
who put those files there?” The answer to that is also “it can’t”.
Given that estimates of the hijacked system population worldwide
range from 80M to 250M, odds are already good and getting
better than any Windows system chosen at random has been
hijacked. And of course once that’s happened, all bets are off:
log files can be faked, timestamps modified, etc.

The issue I’m getting at is that unless someone’s got a
videotape of the putative owner sitting in front of the system
and actively taking the steps required to put that material there,
then there is no evidence that they did so. Yes, I’m aware
that this is not how it tends to play out in the court system,
but that’s exactly the problem I’m trying to highlight: dissection
of Windows systems has no evidentiary value, because the
evidence is subject to arbitrary manipulation by third parties.

The court system needs to catch up to technical reality —
and stop relying on “evidence” that’s so flimsy. And yes, this
probably means that some number of prosecutions will fail,
but a prosecution based on non-evidence should fail.

Kevin says:

Re: Lack of forensic savvy

The issue I’m getting at is that unless someone’s got a videotape of the putative owner sitting in front of the system and actively taking the steps required to put that material there, then there is no evidence that they did so.

That’s why the crime isn’t “reproduction of child pornography” or “copying of child pornography onto your hard drive.” It’s called “possession of child pornography,” and much like “possession of illegal/controlled substances” if something that you own has the contraband inside it, then it’s assumed that you are the possessor. Obviously the courts will make certain exceptions, like if your stolen car is recovered with a kilo of cocaine in it, but those are exceptions and not the rule.

Bobby (profile) says:

Fact or Fiction

Seems everyone has jumped to the conclusion that the customer knew that file was on the computer, but I do not see that established anywhere. So, is the technician guilty of viewing child porn by playing the file? Should the technician be arrested and charged? It is obvious that you can’t trust any technician to work on your computer without violating your confidentiality. Seems to me the technician/repair shop had an obligation to explain to the customer the process that would be used in sufficient detail to allow the customer to make an informed decision, and determine to what extent he was willing to pay for the service. The irony of this is the the guy probably had to pay for the work that was done, although I would guess grudgingly. It makes you wonder how much other snooping the technician does. What pray tell does playing a video file have to do with testing the operation of a DVD drive? Playing a video file says nothing about whether the drive works or not and contrary to other comments, there is no mention of any software installation so he must of just been wasting the companies time. If and only if the person is guilty of possessing the porn should he be prosecuted, but he should get the max for being so foolish if nothing else, and the tech should go down the road for violoating the customers right to privacy.

ComputerTechGuy (user link) says:

Weird how so many people are railing against the tech.

I guess I have to assume everyone here hasn’t broken any kind of law relating to PC’s in the least. Pirated Windows, torrented movies, shared mp3’s…

It’s kinda ironic when you think about it. If I found something like this on a machine while working on it the scumbag would be reported to the police ASAP.

If you’re bringing your PC to a shop to be worked on, take that crap off there. If you didn’t have the chance, why risk it?

Syn_ack says:


There seems to be a lot of questions regarding the legality of accessing the local video files, but I can think of a few scenarios where it could be legitimate. What if the DVD player was not playing video? Wouldn’t it be legitimate to search for a local video and determine if it was a video driver or something specific to the DVD? What if in testing the DVD a file was saved to a folder and the folder contained the offending file with a filename that was obviously suggestive? Is a law broken then?

The question of this case will be whether there is an assumed right to privacy not whether constitutional rights had been broken, at least not yet. A court will need to decide if there is a reasonable right to privacy based on the situation. It could be argued that by providing the computer to the company, it was an invite to view otherwise private files since it can be assumed they have that capability, similiarly to inviting someone in your house and having a bong on the kitchen table.

It definately is a slipperly slope that could go either way, but I feel that by providing the data to a facility that is known to have access to it, there is no invasion of privacy since no attempt was made to protect the data and it could have been discovered accidently. I’d also like that to coincide with a ruling that encryption does not constitute an assumptioon of guilt for the very same reason as discussed in a recent story here. It’s just taking reasonable steps to safeguard your property and information.

Rich Kulawiec says:

Lack of forensic savvy

That’s why the crime isn’t “reproduction of child pornography” or “copying of child pornography onto your hard drive.” It’s called “possession of child pornography […]

Agreed. But the problem we’re faced with is that there is
nothing stopping the new owners of all those compromised
systems out there from uploading a child porn video onto every
single one of them and instantly creating tens of millions of
“criminals”. One anonymous phone call later…someone gets
a knock on their door, is served with a search warrant, and their
life is destroyed. (Or one anonymous phone call later, someone
is informed that unless they pay up, the next call will trigger
the process.)

I keep coming back to the Julie Amero case. She was publicly
crucified, her career ruined, her life torn apart — because she had
the bad luck to be the one closest to one of those kazillion compromised Windows systems when it happened to do something noticeable in the presence of witnesses. Imagine
what would have happened to her if what showed up on the screen hadn’t been just porn — but child porn. Do you think
she’d ever teach again?

Unfortunately, her case is unlikely to be the last — I think
it’s just a harbinger of far worse to come. We need to collectively realize that the abysmally poor state of computer security worldwide is such that “evidence” is almost always no such thing. And yes, this doesn’t bode well for successful prosecution of the real child porn people and other similar types.

Just Me says:

#67 & the article itself...

“…the problem we’re faced with is that there is nothing stopping the new owners of all those compromised systems out there from uploading a child porn video onto every single one of them and instantly creating tens of millions of “criminals”. One anonymous phone call later…someone gets a knock on their door, is served with a search warrant, and their life is destroyed.”

Is that any different from planting coke in another’s car/house?
The onus then falls to the victim to demonstrate they had no knowledge of it’s existence. Very hard to do but it happens.

As for the article – the guy should be charge and the court will decide if it’s reasonable to believe that a) the tech put it there b) the system was hacked c) the content was NOT porn (kids in the tub?) or d) the guy is a pig.

As for the tech; if there was a disclaimer to the customer and no policy on this he’s pretty much off the hook. If there was no disclaimer/is a policy that this violates then appropriate action should be taken – it’s up to the business owner/manager to determine what that action is.

Rich Kulawiec says:

#67 & the article itself...

The onus then falls to the victim to demonstrate they had no knowledge of it’s existence. Very hard to do but it happens.

That’s the problem. If we lived in a world where it was reasonable to presume that computer systems are secure,
and therefore that anything on them was put there by a deliberate
act of their owners, then, sure, it would also be reasonable to
expect that those owners show non-involvement.

We don’t live in that world. We live in a world where enormous
numbers of systems are already compromised and a
similarly large number are vulnerable. Given that, the presumption
should be the opposite — and prosecutors should have to prove that anything found on a computer was deliberately put there by its putative owner.

BTW: I try to say “putative owner” when I mean “the person whose desk the computer is on”. They’re not the real owner.
The real owner is whoever now has effective control of it.
I adhere to the maxim “If someone else can run arbitrary code
on your computer…it’s not YOUR computer any more”.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Re #69 & Rich Kulaweic

Victimization I believe it is. (only saying because it appears that you off handedly asked, sorry if the correction was unwanted.)

I agree with Rich on the argument he presented.
Has has some good points.

All it would take is for one of those bot herders in country X to decide they want a good laugh. Then they would direct all infected PCs to download some child porn.
Instant victims of millions of people.

Might make the law makers think twice when half of their home PCs all of a sudden have child porn on it.

Just Me says:


“the presumption should be the opposite — and prosecutors should have to prove that anything found on a computer was deliberately put there by its putative owner.”

Can’t argue that point. People should be presumed innocent – especially non-techies with techie crime charges.
Unfortunately I don’t think the legal system works that way. From what I’ve seen (generally speaking) it it’s on your comp then it’s your behind.
Not to say that should be the case…

And yes, KT – I was hoping for an answer. Spell check didn’t think it was a word (and I didn’t realize the misspelling until after I submitted anyway) so I wasn’t certain.

EvilMessiah says:

No Such Thing as Privacy

There is no such thing as personal privacy ………SAVE THE CHILDREN !

Amen to that.

Now if you’d be so kind as to invite a couple FBI people over to your house, let them make sure your computer is clean, then let the IRS go through your personal (whoops, I mean public now) financial records with a fine tooth comb – don’t worry, you’ve got nothing to hide – now, we’d better get some RIAA lawyers in there to make sure you don’t have any illicit music on there. Nothing to hide, right?

But what about those bad ol’ neighbors. Sure the guy next door is good to have a beer with, but he might be abusing his kids, and dammit, while you’re at it, you really wanna see if he’s got pictures of his hot wife. Surely that’s your business right? How about the guy across the street? Maybe he’s got terrorist bomb making chemicals paid for on his visa bill. Better look at it to make sure, right?

“Those who sacrifice liberty for security lose both and deserve neither” – Ben Franklin

You, sir, deserve your petty life of fear.

No Such Thing As Privacy says:

Irony seems to be lost on EvilMessiah.

The actual quote is “There is not such thing as privacy, get over it.” A direct quote from Larry Ellison, CEO of Sun.

And as far as “Save the Children !” goes, it seems to be the rallying cry for every bit of invasive legislation in the country designed to strip us of our basic civil liberties.

Puts his head in his hands as he explains Irony.

John (profile) says:

The constitution

I’d like some attorneys to correct me if I’m wrong, but…

I was always under the assumption that the constitution was written to protect U.S. citizens from government agencies (federal, state, and local). Where does it say that corporations have to follow the Bill of Rights?

There is no “right against illegal search and seizure” as it applies to corporations. If they can convince a judge to do whatever, then they will.

At the same time, there is no “right to free speech” on any website. Yes, ANY WEBSITE. All websites are privately owned and they all have their own rules on what people can and can not say.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people say “that site is censoring me! I have a right to free speech.” Um, no, you have the right to free speech if you stand in a public place and speak your mind about the government. You can’t bash a website (or other users) on a website and not expect the site admins to do something.

And what if the site is hosted in Europe? Sure, they have *similar* laws protecting free speech, but they certainly don’t have “constitutional rights” as defined by the U.S. constitution.

Sorry for getting off-topic, but I’m so sick of people claiming “constitutional rights” when there are none.

Anyway, back onto the topic:
An earlier poster mentioned the comparison of a mechanic finding a gun in your glove compartment. While the discovery of something illegal may be similar, the situations are not: if you’re accused of having an illegal handgun, you’ll go to court, maybe go to jail, and that’s probably it.
If you’re accused of having child porn, you’re basically “guilty until proven innocent”. And if you’re convicted, you’ll have to register as a sex offender *forever*.

While this is good for offenders that are found guilty, what happens to the people who are wrongly accused?

Anonymous Coward says:

“How exactly does one prove that the tech didn’t put the file there? I mean think like this: a tech gets a PC in of a guy he knows personally, and hates (unknowingly of the guy who brought the PC in). The tech plants the file, changes the creation/modification dates, and says “Hey officer look what I found.”

That’s why this needs to be stopped. It’s too easy for this type of thing to happen. I’d be more worried that our government or law enforcement would be planting stuff.

Allowing this to happen opens the door to all sorts of nasty things. Suppose the government decides one day that the techs have to search the computer drives. This could happen – think of The Patriot Act and how that has impacted librarians throughout the country.

trevor daniels says:

RE: Let's Be Careful

First I want to say that for all we know there was child porn on this guys computer, and that’s it. There may have been many reasons why it was there. For example, I am a doctorally trained professional that has worked with sexual offenders in the past (all of whom are NOT necessarily child molesters), and it is common in this line of work to do research that involves many types of pornography. Does this make and my colleagues perverts, child molesters, etc? NO. So, before we get all emotional and make judgments, we first have to ask many questions and not rush to judgment.

Secondly, my feeling is if you send your computer to a tech company or a friend to get fixed, just assume that they are going to look through your files…I ALWAYS do. So, if there is something there you do not want people to see…save it to a flash drive.

Anonymous Coward says:

There is such a thing as Mandated reporting when it come to ANY sort of child sexual assault, abuse or pornography. I happen to be a mandated reporter. What if I was a tech who found the file? I would legally have to report this and I believe that ANY evidence found regarding this particular issue is considered acceptable in court regardless of how it is discovered. I’m not sure what protection that would give me as the tech who went snooping but it’s something to think about. In this case I’m just glad the guy felt like being nosy and got this pervert arrested.

Anonymous Coward says:

And another thing. This is more of an ethics question than a legal question. What would you do? Child pornography is such a disgusting, terrible, sickening thing that I know if I were that tech I would morally feel the need to own up and say “Hey listen I was wrong to go through this guys files and fire me or prosecute me as you will but I need to speak up about what i found”. Maybe everyone needs to be human instead of talking about “the law”. Isn’t that what it’s there for? To protect human rights? And who needs that protection the most? Children. It’s kind of a no brainer if you have a soul.

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