Imagine you are a DEA agent working a hot drug case. You snag a low-level worker in the drug organization you're targeting, then set up a fake Facebook profile using that person's actual name and photos, just to see who else in the organization might connect - and maybe even talk about their drug business. Does this sound like a movie plot to you?
Apparently, this is really happening. But guess who is not too happy about the long arm of the law reaching into social media's biggest site?
But first, scroll through your Facebook friends list and chances are, most people you see use their real names. It makes it easy for you to identify them and others, like long lost classmates or neighbors, to find them.
Facebook is very strict about people using real names when creating new profiles. But, the DEA skirted those regulations when an agent created a fake profile to impersonate a young woman as part of an investigation. The Justice Department says that the agent involved had every right to do so, but Facebook doesn't agree.
DEA agent Timothy Sinnigen created the fake page using photos and data from an arrested woman's cellphone. He used the information to set up the page and even friend a fugitive. He also posted her photos to the profile, including scantily clad pictures and an image of her son and niece.
Now, Facebook's Chief Security Officer has written a letter to the DEA that asks the agency to abide by the same rules as everyone else.
We recently learned through media reports that the Drug Enforcement Administration ("DEA") created fake Facebook accounts and impersonated a Facebook user as part of its investigation of alleged criminal conduct unrelated to Facebook. Although we understand that the U.S. Department of Justice is currently reviewing these enforcement practices, we write to express our deep concern about the DEA's conduct and ask that the DEA cease all activities on Facebook that involve the impersonation of others.
The Facebook page has already been disabled, but the woman is now suing the DEA for $250,000 because she said that she never gave agents permission to use the information on her phone to create the profile.
Facebook's terms and conditions make it very clear that creating any sort of fake profile goes against the social network's policy.
According to the Facebook Terms and Conditions that all users have to agree to, creating a false account or impersonating another person is strictly forbidden. Sullivan says Facebook takes these rules seriously because it lets users feel safe knowing that they're really talking to their friends and family, not an impostor. He wrote that fake profiles "undermine trust in the Facebook community."
Facebook is a community where people come to share and interact using their authentic identities. As our Chief Product Officer recently explained, this core principle is what differentiates Facebook from other services on the Internet.
If you notice a fake account posing as you or your child on Facebook, you can report it to have it removed.