American government claimed that it can take your pictures and pretend to be you on social networks in attempt to trick your friends into admitting some illegal deeds. According to the Justice Department, a federal agent legitimately impersonated a young woman on the Internet by creating a Facebook page in her name without her knowledge. This was done by stealing photos from the woman’s seized mobile phone and sticking racy pictures of her and her son and niece to a fake social media account.
The woman in question, Sondra Arquiett (who then went by the name Sondra Prince) found out that the agents had stolen her ID four years ago, when a friend asked her about the photos she was allegedly posting on her Facebook timeline. There were risque pictures of the woman posing on the hood of a BMW with her legs spread, and photos of her in underwear.
It turned out that the account was created by special agent of the US Drug Enforcement Administration named Timothy Sinnigen. He had arrested Arquiett and accused her of participating in a drug ring. Later, the judge decided that the single mom was a bit player who took responsibility and sentenced her to probation. When Sondra was awaiting trial, the agent created the fake Facebook page with her real name, published pictures from her seized mobile, and was talking to at least one wanted fugitive. Of course, everything was done without Arquiett’s knowledge.
In the meantime, Facebook’s Community Standards clearly read that pretending to be someone else, creating a false presence for a company, or creating multiple accounts undermines community and violates the website’s terms. Nothing is said about any exceptions for police and spooks. Nevertheless, the fake Facebook page is still there.
Apparently, the actions of the US Drug Enforcement Administration might have never been discovered if Arquiett, now 28, hadn’t sued back the agent, accusing him of violating her privacy and placing her in danger. The response of the authorities was the following: the agent admitted that Sondra didn’t give express permission for the use of pictures stored on her phone on the fake Facebook page. At the same time, the DEA claimed that Arquiett implicitly consented by granting access to data stored in her mobile and by consenting to use it in order to help an ongoing criminal investigations.
This means that the American authorities can just walk into your house, steal your pictures and publish them on the Internet if they have a reason to believe that it can help arrest your friends. Of course, when the woman gave permission for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to look at her phone, she could never imagine that she would have consented to her pictures being used in like that. Unfortunately, the US Justice Department believes that it is just fine.