FBI Wants To Know If Applicants Have Been Downloading Unauthorized Content

from the limiting-the-supply dept

Earlier this year, FBI Director James Comey suggested that the FBI might consider backing off its policy of refusing to hire anyone who has used marijuana in order to find competent computer folks who can deal with online crimes. After some backlash (and some support) for those statements, Comey quickly backed down, claiming it was all just a joke.

Now, TorrentFreak has revealed that beyond pot smoking disqualifying you, so might your history of downloading some music and movies. This came up at a Sacramento State Career Center information session held by the FBI, where the FBI made it clear that your downloading practices matter to the agency.

?If you?re doing that, stop doing it.? Dupree said.

He explained how the FBI will ask people during interviews how many songs, movies and books they have downloaded because the FBI considers it to be stealing.

During the first two phases of interviews, everything is recorded and then turned into a report. This report is then passed along to a polygraph technician to be used during the applicant’s exam, which consists of a 55-page questionnaire. If an applicant is caught lying, they can no longer apply for an FBI agent position.

?If you are accepted to intern at FBI and fail the polygraph you can no longer apply to FBI again.? Dupre said.

From the sound of that, your history might not fully disqualify you, but it may come up again later in the process. TorrentFreak, though, found a post from a few years ago on a job board, where someone says that his downloading past kept him from being hired by the FBI.

It’s interesting to note that TorrentFreak also turned up an article saying that downloading unauthorized content does not disqualify you from the CIA. The difference here actually makes some sense — since the FBI actually does handle some cases involving copyright (though, that still seems ridiculous). Either way, if the FBI is barring people who use pot and who have infringed on copyrights, they’re going to find themselves with an increasingly limited supply of computer experts for its computer crimes division.

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Comments on “FBI Wants To Know If Applicants Have Been Downloading Unauthorized Content”

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art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Of more concern

adding my personal experiences:
went to apply for a shitty radio shack job decades ago at the behest of some semi-friends/co-workers who went to work there…
now, these guys were liars (salesdroids, same thing), scammers, drug fiends, and -well, not to put too sharp a point on it- thieves from work… but otherwise, great guys !

(no, i never witnessed it, just heard of it third hand, way after they had left… these guys had been in the military as MPs and told ALL KINDS of stupid, fucked up shit they did just because they could, like driving a half-track into a lake for the hell of it, etc…)

NOT just a pencil and pad of paper here and there, but thousands of dollars of stereo equipment, etc…

THESE GUYS PASSED the super-rigorous pre-screening and polygraph test (one of them did the thumbtack in the shoe trick, the other one was just a sociopath), but little goody-two-shoes me FLUNKED, and i have no reason why…

i answered one million percent honestly, but i guess the examiner just didn’t like me… read up on the tests some time after that, and found out they are 90% bullshit…

i would NOT be surprised if the polygraphs with the feebs are to WEED OUT goody-two-shoes and boy scouts, and SELECT FOR sociopaths who will be obedient goons for Empire…

Empire must fall,
the sooner the fall,
the gentler for all

Editor-In-Chief says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Most of the people I know (including myself) have never smoked pot. On the other hand, many of those I went to uni with, drank like fish. As a group, we basically thought of those using pot and other illicit drugs as drongoes. Our basic policy was to ensure that for each car going somewhere that there was at least one person who was going to stay cold stone sober and would be the nominated driver. This was over thirty years ago, getting on towards forty. Any car owner who wouldn’t comply, would have the keys physically forcefully removed from them. We did lots of crazy things back then but we were cold stone sober when we did them.

David Oliver Graeme Samuel Offenbach

Anonymous Coward says:

Will the question be “have you ever” or “do you currently.”

This legitimately tests two character traits, honesty and judgment.
Judgment comes in because . If you are applying for a job with law enforcement you better know you need to be on your best behavior during the process.
Also any word on whether being honest and admitting you used to is a disqualifying factor?


Re: It may have all been perfectly legal.

The problem I have with those kinds of questions is that they ask things that on the surface seem like they may be illegal but may not necessarily be. This applies to both the use of narcotics and the downloading of files from the Internet.

Also, the FBI definition of “illegal downloading” seemed to include even legal sources.

This is similar to the problem with asking you if you’ve ever smoked pot.

These kinds of questions muddle together large classes of use and abuse.

Get off my cyber-lawn! (profile) says:

candidate pool the size of a soup bowl

The only people left to try to recruit would be introverted, socially inept loners with little or no contact outside of the workplace. Of course they can’t hire that person either because that is the definition of their “insider threat” personality description. Looks like they’ll be outsourcing to China soon.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: candidate pool the size of a soup bowl

The only people left to try to recruit would be introverted, socially inept loners with little or no contact outside of the workplace. Of course they can’t hire that person either because that is the definition of their “insider threat” personality description. Looks like they’ll be outsourcing to China soon.

Oh, and tone-deaf as well, not interested in music.

Plus… using a polygraph. Aren’t those things basically operator woo, sufficiently unreliable that the courts don’t believe them?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Can't smoke weed, can't download.

I’ve known a lot of top shelf software engineers over the decades and, while not all of them have been pot smokers, it has been the majority.

Every type of career seems to have a recreational substance that is trendy for it. Lawyers have coke, doctors have painkillers, truckers have speed, and software engineers have pot.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I don’t attest any validity whatsoever to polygraphs. They’re about as truthful as e-machines (as in Scientology).
They’re psycho-babble. Uri Geller level realistic. They can be used to scare ignorant people in interrogations, that’s all. Water-boarding/torture is about as effective.

Makes me hang my head in shame for humanity. We can do better than this pathetic !@#$. Yet the TLAs still believe, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Damned sad.

Anonymous Coward says:

So full of fail

“He explained how the FBI will ask people during interviews how many songs, movies and books they have downloaded because the FBI considers it to be stealing.”

The national law enforcement agency is so miserably ignorant, so relentlessly uneducated, so appallingly stupid, that it fails to observe the existence of millions of songs, movies and books that are free to download.

(slow clap)

New Mexico Mark says:

Polygraphs are a joke

Years ago I knew that results from polygraphs were unreliable (hence their inadmissibility as evidence in court), but I didn’t realize how nonsensical they were until after I failed one while qualifying for a three-letter agency when I knew for a fact that I answered 100 percent truthfully on every question. I was retested and passed, but ultimately declined the job because I could buy a mansion with dozens of acres of beautiful land where I live for the cost of a crappy condo in the DC area.

After that I did some research, and found that not only are polygraphs unreliable, but that the most truthful people often fail because they are worried and second-guessing themselves in order to make sure they are not omitting anything.

On the other hand, sociopaths and trained spies can most certainly pass polygraphs. So I guess polygraphs are good for ensuring your organization hires a disproportionate number of those folks while eliminating the really truthful ones. (The conspiracy theorist in me wonders is this is the true purpose of such a nonsensical procedure — the lunatics are running the asylum?)

Anon says:

Re: Re: Polygraphs are a joke

They’re selecting for those who can convincingly lie to their bosses, juries, Congress, … High praise. What a message to send to our younger generations.

Don’t forget the congenitally stupid too. There are people out there who despite news, adverts before movies, and warnings everywhere, do not realize that downloading is wrong.

I once did a bit of tech support where one office, half the people were running LimeWire and did not realize they were getting and sharing all their music illegally. (Of course, this was Canada, so back then there was no harassment about this.)

Anonymous Coward says:

That would disqualify almost everybody from my high school class back in the 1980s. I don’t think there is someone in my high school graduating class that did not pirate SOME software title, and this was back before piracy became a crime.

This was also in the days before cable TV piracy became a criminal offence, and most of us had built circuits to descrmble the over the air UHF pay services from the likes of Star TV. UHF-based pay-Tv services were so easy to descramble back in the early 80s, and most everyone in my high school class did it.

Even though we were not breaking any laws of that era, it seems that the FBI wants to disqualify “pirates”, even if they were not breaking the law at the time they did what they did.

So I could see people having pirated Star TV, and other scrambled UHF services, being disqualified, even if they were not breaking the law at the time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Well it's a "murican" standoff

How can anyone work for the FBI? They engage in illegal, unethical and immoral conduct continually as a matter of course. Then justify their conduct with lame, transparent excuses like terrorism, in-spite of the plots being instigated by themselves for PR purposes. And they want to accuse someone that rips a CD of some great crime?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: this is simple

That… is eerily possible actually(probably not the real reason, but as a potential one, it would make sense).

I mean, when you’ve got federal agencies lying left and right to everyone, it would make sense for them to be on the look-out for those skilled in lying, so they can hire them and put them to use lying for the agency.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘Downloaded’. FBI may want to narrow in the definition here.

I once had a Myspace account and every friends page had music streaming from it. In every instance my computer would have ‘downloaded’ the track in question. Am I expected to have certified each track that loaded was legal before visiting each page?

TruthHurts says:

First, lets filter our current government and alphabet agencies..

First filter out all current and previous staff and elected or appointed officials that fail any of these tests.

Include any who did the following:

Recorded Radio to cassette tapes.
Recorded Cable to VCR and lent the tapes out.
Used VCRs to duplicate VCR Rentals
Smoked or drank alcohol as a minor
Cheated in high school
Had sex before they were 18, that’s child molestation now
Picked on anyone while in school (K-12 and College) – bullying is supposedly a crime now
Got into a car after having 1 drink, regardless of whether they were intoxicated or not.
Had a joint
Drove while on any kind of medication that altered their judgement, reaction times, etc (pain meds, cold meds, allergy meds) – this is the same as driving drunk.

All of these things are illegal, and are at the same or worse than downloading (which is entirely legal) a song or movie. Downloading isn’t illegal, never has been, never will be. Anyone claiming otherwise is a liar.

Now that we’ve removed the entire U.S. Government, Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches as well as all Federal agencies of any staff, we can start over and actually think before we blow our own brains out with stupidity like this.

Whoever in the FBI came up with this has had to have had at least 3 lobotomies, and should never have been let out of their straight-jacket.

Anonymous Coward says:

How is this even an item for them to bring up in a serious manner? It almost appears that this was course of action was authorized by those who don’t use a computer except to “check email” or access the “world wide web” (insert any outdated computer concept here). I’d ask who are they? The morality police?

It does ask the question of when such line of questioning is introduced in other areas of employment for reason X (think of the children accessin/downloading those public domain ebooks!!)

James Jensen (profile) says:


Hmm, reminds me of a similar incident from a while back:

I went over to the sargent, said, “Sargeant, you got a lot a damn gall to ask me if I’ve rehabilitated myself, I mean, I mean, I mean that just, I’m sittin’ here on the bench, I mean I’m sittin here on the Group W bench ’cause you want to know if I’m moral enough join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein’ a litterbug.” He looked at me and said, “Kid, we don’t like your kind, and we’re gonna send you fingerprints off to Washington.” — Arlo Guthrie, Alice’s Restaurant

Anonymous Hero says:

There's subtlety in the wording.

First: “‘If you’re doing that, stop doing it.’ Dupree said.”

Dupree is making the admission that job candidates may have pirated in the past and may currently be pirating.

Second: “‘If you are accepted to intern at FBI and fail the polygraph you can no longer apply to FBI again.’ Dupre said.”

This implies that pirating music or movies will NOT get you disqualified, but rather the act of failing the polygraph. There’s nothing here that says a candidate will be disqualified if they have pirated in the past, stopped, and tell the truth about it (once again, it’s a polygraph test, so presumably there are occasional false positives and false negatives).

Anonymous Coward says:

A long time ago

I too took a polygraph in order to work for a 3 letter agency, and upon my 1st attempt failed and was scheduled for a follow up examination. During my first polygraph, it felt as if there was a game being played in while I wasn’t aware of the rules. Because of that feeling, before the 2nd polygraph, I did some research on the subject. I found out a lot of information about polygraphy. Among the information I discovered was the fact that there was a classified government document on the effectiveness of polygraphy. I never saw that document, but if that document reflected the publically available information on polygraphy and if I were a classification authority, I too would have classified the document. The reason is quite simple. All the available information on polygraphy boils down to this.

As a means of distinguishing truth from deception, polygrahy is totally useless. However, as a means of eliciting voluntary confessions from naïve subjects, it is extremely effective.

So of course the government has a vested interest in keeping that information away from the general public. After all, if there are no naïve subjects, then they lose the utility of the polygraph in obtaining such.

Anonymous Coward says:

It was only a generation ago that these federal agencies, and the military, intensely questioned applicants about homosexual tendencies. And then there were the occasional witch hunts to ferret out any that might have slipped through.

Because just like (casual) copyright infringement today, sodomy was a crime back then, and criminals, then and now, were not eligible to join.

Anonymous Coward says:

Kinda makes sense. They don’t want to feel like they are hipocrites when they go to extremes when they hunt down offenders of trivial consequence as opposed to focusing on worse offenses.

If you get to use the high tech gadgets and raid equipment, going after potheads and downloaders is alot safer than things like organized crime, citizen terrorists, or even other government agencies that have similar stuff.

John85851 (profile) says:

What if you download something illegally for legal reasons?

Does anyone know if the agency gives a definition of “illegal download”? The reason I ask is that I’ve heard stories about how people purchase an expensive software program (such as Lightwave 3D), but then download the illegal version so they don’t have to deal with the hardware dongle (a form of copy protection). So while the person has legally paid for the software, under a polygraph test, he might have to admit to downloading illegal software… or if he doesn’t admit it, he may be nervous and the polygraph may say he’s lying.

Like other people are saying, polygraphs are barely above the science of “micro-expressions” (as seen on the TV show “Lie to Me”). All a polygraph proves is that you can answer questions without setting off the machine.
And didn’t this site have an article about how a company got into trouble for teaching people how to pass a polygraph test. And passing a polygraph test might be useful if you want to work at the FBI.

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