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The DEA impersonated a woman on Facebook to catch criminals

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
October 8, 2014
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Law enforcement is no stranger to going undercover to bust unsuspecting crooks, but the Drug Enforcement Administration may have taken an online sting operation one step too far. A woman arrested in a drug case, Sondra Arquiett, sued the government after a DEA agent impersonated her on Facebook to trick at least one fugitive into sharing information. While Arquiett had consented to a search of her phone for the sake of investigations, she didn't give permission to the agent to post photos from that phone for the world to see. Her suit accuses the agent of not only violating her privacy, but of putting her in danger by making it look like she was cooperating with officials.

The Department of Justice initially defended the DEA's actions, but it now says it's reviewing the case. The lawsuit is expected to go to mediation that could result in a settlement, and Facebook has already taken down the fake account for violating its terms of service. If Arquiett wins, she could establish clearer limits for what police are allowed to do with confiscated data -- they'd have to get a suspect's approval to use non-evidential content, especially if it's going to be exposed to the public.

[Image credit: Shutterstock]

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