Facebook Asks DEA to Stop Creating Fake Profiles

Tuesday, October 21, 2014
DEA's fake Facebook profile (AP photo)

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents have been creating phony Facebook profiles as part of their investigations and the social media giant wants the practice stopped.


In a letter (pdf) to the DEA, Facebook’s chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, asked the agency to end its practice of operating fake profiles to catch those involved with illegal drugs.


Sullivan said the DEA must comply with the same rules that all users must abide by in being part of the Facebook community, and that includes not lying about their true identity. “We regard DEA’s conduct to be a knowing and serious breach of Facebook’s terms and policies,” Sullivan wrote to Michele Leonhart, head of the DEA.


The request comes in the wake of a lawsuit filed against the DEA by a woman claiming agents used her name and photographs to create a phony profile on the site.


Sondra Arquiett was arrested on drug charges four years ago, during which her cell phone was confiscated. She claims the DEA lifted her images from her phone and put them up on Facebook to create a fake profile using her pseudonym, Sondra Prince. Arquiett is seeking $250,000 in damages from the agency.


The Department of Justice defended its actions, saying Arquiett “implicitly consented” to DEA using her personal information “by granting access … stored in her cellphone and by consenting to the use of that information to aid in ... ongoing criminal investigations,” according to a court filing.


The case has been sent to arbitration.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Facebook Unfriends Federal Drug Agency (Associated Press)

Drug Agency Sued Over Its Fake Facebook Account (by Alicia Caldwell and Eric Tucker, Associated Press)

Letter to DEA (Facebook) (pdf)

Facebook Clashes with New York City Prosecutors (and New York Courts) over Privacy of Member Details (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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