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Privacy observations while waiting for a memory upgrade

Deciding I needed a memory upgrade for my laptop, I went to the nearest Best Buy on the advice of another retailer. Things got a little complicated allowing me to spend about two and a half hours in the store. This gave me a chance  me to see how this particular Geek Squad protected privacy. My experience with privacy and the Geek Squad had been very positive at another location, but this experience left some things to be desired.

Take a laptop, share your privacy policy

My past experience with Geek Squad had required me to leave a laptop with them for a few days. Customer contact information was taken, a copy of the intake form was given to me, the privacy practices were explained, and I signed an acknowledgement. To me, thisis could be considered a best practice.

During my time in the store there must have been an intake of 10 to 20 devices potentially containing customer’s personal information. Seated within 15 feet of the intake desk I did not see a customer leave with similar documentation. In fact, when my laptop was taken only a minimal amount of information was gathered and nothing was returned.

If this was a change in Best Buy’s policies or simply a poor implementation of standard processes, I cannot say. Frankly I was more focused on the other situation I observed.

Privacy is compromised when customers can go behind the counter

Geek Squad Customer - a privacy concern?The Geek Squad area is typically laid out as horseshoe-shaped counter with a workbench in the center. During the time I spent in the store there were several customers invited behind the counter to work with a technician. Often the customer was left alone behind the counter as seen in the image on the right.

I confirmed with a supervisor that the workbench contained customer devices and work orders with personal information. With every employees’ back to this customer who knows what could be slipped into his briefcase or what he could read.

The customer in picture needed assistance a couple of times and walked up behind the employee on the left at the register where he waited for help. The employee’s monitor contents were in full view of the customer (as was the cash in the till at one point). The customer also approached an untended register to find a pen; who knows what he saw there on the monitor or the surrounding area.

Geek Squad Customer - a privacy concern?

Was this an unusual occurrence? Apparently not as I witnessed two other customers behind the counter unattended including the woman pictured at the left. This customer appeared to be reading something she found on the workbench.

A supervisor’s response to the privacy conern

When my transaction was complete I asked a supervisor about the customers behind the counter. He was surprised I asked as it was completely against policy. To his credit, the supervisor asked if I had observed it happening. He then asked for a copy of the picture I had shown him. I sent him the picture and hope he takes this an opportunity to raise the awareness of his staff about why certain policies are in place and why it is important to comply with them.

What can a privacy professional learn from this?

Best Buy and Geek Squad had great privacy practices at the previous location I had visited. Why was this experience different? I cannot say. Sometimes in the day-to-day activities shortcuts are taken for efficiency. Sometimes the training may not have been sufficient. Sometimes things just break in a high volume environment.

My intent with sharing this not to damage Best Buy or the Geek Squad as I am sure that there corporate practices are more in line with my previous visit. My intent is to remind us all that ultimately we must rely on our employees to follow our standard corporate practices so awareness of these is an on-going effort.