A woman sued federal agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) last year over a bizarre case in which the agents created a fake Facebook account for her to try and catch drug dealers. After arresting her for intent to distribute cocaine in 2010, the DEA agents pulled salacious photos of the woman, Sondra Arquiett, from her phone and posted them on the fake page.
Originally, the DEA argued that Arquiett gave them “implicit consent” to user her photos, but they have switched course and made the decision to settle the case, awarding Arquiett $134,000. In her original lawsuit, Arquiett sought $750,000 in damages for invasion of privacy, violation of her constitutional rights and emotional distress.
“Ms. Arquiett never intended for any of the pictures on her phone to be displayed publicly, let alone on Facebook, which has more than 800 million active users,” one of Arquiett’s attorneys said at the time of the suit. “More disturbing than the fact that the DEA Agents posted a picture of her in her underwear and bra is the fact that the DEA agents posted a picture of her young son and young niece in connection with that Facebook account, which the DEA agents later claim was used . . . to have contact with individuals involved in narcotics distribution.”
Though Arquiett was in hot water with the law for drug-related issues, there’s no doubt that the federal agents overstepped their bounds by impersonating her online. Facebook in particular was upset over the DEA’s actions, emphasizing that incidents like the fake profile create issues of trust between the site and its users. Though the case won’t actually go to court, the settlement is a positive sign that the government knows it got caught trying something it shouldn’t.