According to documents obtained by The Intercept, the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota created a fake Facebook profile to monitor Black Lives Matter protestors at the mall and to gather their private information.
The report shows that an individual named “Sam Root” created a Facebook account for “Nikki Larson.” The Intercept’s investigation found that Sam Root lists his profession as “Intelligence Analyst at Mall of America.” The fake Nikki Larson profile had a profile picture featuring a quote commonly attributed to Martin Luther King Jr., liked the protest’s Facebook page and befriended many of the individual protestors. Root then allegedly created dossiers on the protestors to provide to Bloomington officials. After the December 20 protest, 11 protestors were charged with criminal misdemeanors and both the city and the mall are seeking $65,000 in restitution.
Many of the documents were originally uncovered by Tony Webster, a software engineer and data researcher. He, and many other activists, feel that the mall grossly overstepped its bounds by violating the online privacy of the protestors.
“’The place for fun in your life’ is the Mall of America’s slogan, which doesn’t align with the Mall creating a fake Facebook account to stalk activists,” Webster said. “I’m sympathetic to the Mall’s everyday task of ensuring safety, but this violation of privacy went too far, as did Mall management’s pushing for harsh criminal prosecution of peaceful demonstrators.”
This is another prime example of why you should be careful of who you friend on Facebook in the first place. Also, be sure to lock down your account so that acquaintances don’t have full access to your Facebook information and posts!