A federal agent impersonated a woman without her knowledge; he created a Facebook page in a woman named Sondra, and the Justice Department is defending him. In addition, he posted racy photos of her, from her cell phone, to the site. The site was being used to connect with suspected criminals.
Seems like he was simply doing what he had to do, because prior, Sondra had been arrested for suspicion of drug ring involvement. While she was awaiting trial (and ultimately was given probation), the agent created the Facebook account.
“The incident at issue in this case is under review by Justice Department officials,” states Brian Fallon, the Justice Department’s top spokesperson. Facebook’s terms of service do not exempt undercover agents from term violations, one of which is posing as another person.
Facebook removed the page once news broke. This case doesn’t compare to when detectives go undercover in person, posing as a fictitious character or a real person who authorizes the impersonation. Sondra is real, and she didn’t know about this.
The defense claims that Sondra indeed consented because she granted access to the data in her phone. A privacy expert points out, however, that this is parallel to granting detectives permission to search your house for drugs, but then they steal photos in your bedroom and post them online. Furthermore, the agent posted photos of Sondra’s minor son and niece.
But is Sondra any angel herself? She pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine in February 2011, but was slapped on the wrist because apparently, she wasn’t a key player in the ring. Really this shouldn’t matter.
It is necessary for law enforcement to use any means necessary and legal to capture bad guys. However there must be a better way to create a social profile, such as using a stock photo or even a computer generated one. The technology is readily available to make this happen.