Facebook To DEA: Hey, No Setting Up Fake Accounts

from the not-cool dept

Earlier this month, we wrote about the DEA's decision to set up a fake profile of a woman who was charged in a case related to drug dealing. The DEA argued that the woman's "consent" to using evidence from her seized cell phone in their investigation included allowing them to (without telling her) set up a Facebook profile in her name, post pictures of hers and other children (from the phone) and "friend" people that the woman knew in real life, in an effort to get more evidence in the drug case. After the story got attention, thanks to a Buzzfeed article, the DOJ said it will "review the practice" of creating such fake Facebook profiles (implying this isn't the only one).

Facebook itself has now stepped into the fracas, noting that the DEA's actions are a "knowing and serious breach" of the site's policies, and that those policies still apply to the government.
Most fundamentally, the DEA's actions threaten the integrity of our community. Facebook strives to maintain a safe, trusted environment where people can engage in authentic interactions with the people they know and meet in real life. Using Facebook to impersonate others abuses that trust and makes people feel less safe and secure when using our service. Indeed, as we have observed at Facebook, such deceptive actions are often used to further harmful conduct, such as trolling, hate speech, scams, bullying, and even domestic violence. This impact is markedly different from undercover investigations conducted in the "real" world.
It further asks that the DEA "immediately confirm that it has ceased all activities on Facebook that involve the impersonation of others or that violate our terms and policies." Of course, I wonder if it would even be possible for Facebook to figure out when the DEA sets up a fake profile, but it appears that this tactic by the DEA may not be usable going forward. You can read the full letter below or download it here (pdf).
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Filed Under: dea, impersonation
Companies: facebook


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  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 20 Oct 2014 @ 2:17am

    Oh, come on, do we really believe a Govt that actively disregards the Constitution will listen to some private entity calling it for abusing stuff? Still, it's good for rising awareness so there is that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Oct 2014 @ 4:17am

      Re:

      The sad thing is, the government are far more likely to cave to the requests of a corporate entity than they are to stop because of the reckless child endangerment issues pointed out in the impersonation case from last week.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Oct 2014 @ 4:19am

      Re:

      Needs moar CFAA prosecution against the DEA

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Manabi (profile), 20 Oct 2014 @ 4:45am

      Re:

      They probably should, even if they're inclined not to. Facebook could escalate this easily by applying an IP block to all .gov addresses, or just figure out the DEA's IP ranges and block those. Sure they could still get through using VPNs and such, but it would make life much, much harder for the DEA.

      Not to mention Facebook could also add a warning to profiles created from .gov address ranges: "This profile was created from a US government computer and may not be who it claims to be." Since very few government IPs should be used for creating Facebook accounts, this could work well. And yes, the DEA could get around this too, but it would again make things harder for them.

      At some point the benefits to the DEA wouldn't be worth continuing to fight it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Michael, 20 Oct 2014 @ 4:58am

        Re: Re:

        Facebook could escalate this easily by applying an IP block to all .gov addresses, or just figure out the DEA's IP ranges and block those.

        Blocking things on the web works really well...

        Not to mention Facebook could also add a warning to profiles created from .gov address ranges: "This profile was created from a US government computer and may not be who it claims to be."

        That is arguably illegal. Obstruction of justice has been applied for "outing" undercover officers and I could see how this could easily fall into the same category.

        The best Facebook could do is try blocking them and shut down accounts when they find out they are impersonations. The government could go after itself for CFAA violations, but that seems...unlikely.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 20 Oct 2014 @ 5:01am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Obstruction of justice"

          Hahaha ... good one.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 20 Oct 2014 @ 5:04am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The best Facebook could do is try blocking them and shut down accounts when they find out they are impersonations.

          And get charged with obstructing justice, because they are stopping them collecting evidence.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            David, 20 Oct 2014 @ 5:36am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "Obstruction of justice" and "Obstruction of the Department of Justice" have become completely different things.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 20 Oct 2014 @ 5:00pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            And get charged with obstructing justice, because they are stopping them collecting evidence.


            No, they're stopping them from creating evidence. No obstruction if the original account is a fiction. Good luck charging them with obstruction of justice for preventing a phishing attack on their network -- the PR would be all in Facebook's favor.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Zonker, 20 Oct 2014 @ 2:10pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          So telling the God's honest truth is obstruction of justice now? Good to know, the US has really fallen far in my lifetime.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Oct 2014 @ 5:10am

        Re: Re:

        They probably should, even if they're inclined not to. Facebook could escalate this easily by applying an IP block to all .gov addresses, or just figure out the DEA's IP ranges and block those. Sure they could still get through using VPNs and such, but it would make life much, much harder for the DEA.

        Perhaps you should look up "botnets" and acquaint yourself with them. Then consider: what makes you think that those that the US DoJ has "shut down" have actually been shut down and not merely repurposed?

        (Unless you'd like to assert that a government which has already shown itself to be willing to engage in every conceivable form of subterfuge, privacy invasion, spying, and security hole exploitation somehow, for some inexplicable reason, hesitated and declined to exploit a resource that had fallen in their hands.)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 20 Oct 2014 @ 3:59am

    Terms of service vs secret laws...
    the new battlegrounds of 'justice' in 'Merika

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 20 Oct 2014 @ 4:59am

      Re:

      If the government wrote all of it's secret laws into their TOS, nobody would ever read them and they could claim transparency.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Oct 2014 @ 5:03am

        Re: Re:

        Wait a sec - there are terms of service from government?
        Might that be the bill of rights? Nah, that's just a piece of paper.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Oct 2014 @ 6:51am

      Re:

      I hate it when i mark insightful something that should be marked funny instead. Everything is upside down these days.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Oct 2014 @ 4:17am

    routine tactic

    The government has been engaged in similar tactics for a long time, to the point that it's become routine. For instance, people caught in the warez scene and various other "conspiracies" are pressured to give up their passwords and compromise their online identities in order to nail their irc friends. Either that or face a very long prison sentence.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Capt ICE Enforcer, 20 Oct 2014 @ 4:19am

    The gig is up.

    Great, now pedophile terrorists are going to destroy the world.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Oct 2014 @ 4:24am

    This is pretty rich --

    -- given that fake Facebook accounts are set up, sold, bought and operated by the tens of millions. Facebook doesn't actually care -- the numbers boost their apparent user base and thus their market valuation as well as their advertising rates: so this letter is nothing but a self-serving, transparent lie designed to placate their base.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Oct 2014 @ 7:39am

      Re: This is pretty rich --

      Interactions between individuals and interactions between individuals and government agencies are two fundamentally different things.

      Also, look up consent by silence.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 20 Oct 2014 @ 5:39am

    "Facebook"

    All that Facebook wants here is a National Security Letter so that they can tell their suckers in good conscience that no gambling is going on here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Oct 2014 @ 6:04am

    Corporate government merging........oh yeah, this'll end well
    P.S. No, no it wont

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Oct 2014 @ 6:32am

    Wait - what?!?

    Wiki bans Congress from updating Wiki's

    NSA is the only people allowed to circumvent the Constitution with collection techniques of people not suspected of crimes

    Local police can take your house and/or money "just because" the suspect you of planning a drug buy?

    and now the DEA is violating the TOS of Facebook?

    Where will it end?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Oct 2014 @ 7:48am

    Be interesting in the fallout when they get around to researching how many assaults and murders occurred due to this practice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Oct 2014 @ 8:27am

    Isn't violating a TOS actually against the law? Other people have been charged with crimes for doing things against the TOS. Add this example as another violation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Oct 2014 @ 10:03am

    I think the DEA has committed identity theft, fraud, and reckless endangerment of minors. I demand justice!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Zonker, 20 Oct 2014 @ 2:25pm

      Re:

      None of the charges you claim matter against government agencies. This is America. Violating the TOS is the only thing that matters here.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 20 Oct 2014 @ 12:16pm

    Where's this "integrity of the community" when it comes to advertisers?

    I will not get a facebook account specifically because of their dubious practice of allowing advertisers to send messages to my friends on the premise that I endorse their product, which I don't.

    I've seen Facebook users install malware on their devices because they were "endorsed" by friends in this way.

    Facebook users commonly tell me they're just aware of this practice, can detect it and ignore it.

    But if commercial interests are allowed to false-flag as Facebook users, why cannot the police?

    Or, as I see it, if the police cannot, why do commercial interests? It's the same deception and transgression.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tim A, 20 Oct 2014 @ 2:26pm

    Yeah, that and..

    ..it messes up their ability to profile the real people for marketing purposes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    PB, 21 Oct 2014 @ 2:57pm

    So, will FB also cancel the personal FB accounts of those identified as participating in this scheme and so violating FB's TOS?

    As I understand it, when you violate the TOS, you are subject to being denied the use of FB. Maybe when these people can no longer post their photos, "Poke" their friends, and spy on their kids' FB activity (at least, not without violating TOS or mis-use of government resources), then they will finally take notice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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