Justice Department reaches $134,000 settlement for impersonating woman on Facebook

Justice Department reaches $134,000 settlement for impersonating woman on Facebook

By Adi Robertson on January 20, 2015
http://www.theverge.com/2015/1/20/7862261/justice-department-facebook-settlement-impersonation

The Department of Justice has agreed to a settlement with a woman it impersonated with a fake Facebook profile in 2010. According to the Associated Press, the agency has reached a $134,000 settlement with Sondra Arquiett, who sued after learning that the Drug Enforcement Agency had used her name and pictures from her cellphone to set up a profile to communicate with suspects in an investigation.

The Justice Department initially argued that Arquiett, who was arrested and ultimately sentenced to probation for drug offenses, had consented by giving officers access to data on her cellphone and letting them use it for investigative purposes. But it also said it would be “launching a review” of the incident, and it’s now apparently agreed to a settlement that’s just over half of the $250,000 Arquiett reportedly asked for in her complaint.

Facebook, which requires users to sign up under their real names, has already gone after the DEA. The account was shut down, and in October of last year, the company sent a letter decrying a “knowing and serious breach of Facebook’s terms and policies.” According to court documents, a DEA agent used Arquiett’s profile to send a friend request to a “wanted fugitive,” and accepted friend requests from others under her name.

Police and other law enforcement agents are increasingly drawing information from social media. They’ve made weapons busts based on information posted to Instagram and used Facebook to establish gang affiliation. But while that involves gathering information already posted to a network, this case operated at an entirely different level. It’s closer to an FBI investigation that faked an actual newspaper site, lacing it with malware to catch a suspect and earning the ire of the Associated Press in the process. It’s debatable how legal these tactics really are, but in this case, the deal will prevent a judge from ruling on the question — the Justice Department doesn’t have to admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement.

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