It was revealed earlier this month that an agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) had set up a fake Facebook profile for a suspect using information and pictures confiscated from her phone. The woman in question is suing the DEA for $250,000 in damages, and Facebook itself has now entered the fray, strongly reprimanding the DEA for its actions in a letter sent last Friday. Facebook security chief Joe Sullivan wrote that government agencies are subject to the same rules on the site as its civilian users.
“Facebook has long made clear that law enforcement authorities are subject to these policies,” Sullivan wrote. “We regard DEA’s conduct to be a knowing and serious breach of Facebook’s terms and policies.”
Facebook also asked for evidence that the DEA isn’t continuing the practice of operating fake pages. Meanwhile, the Justice Department is due to investigate the case and determine whether it went too far in violating the plaintiff’s liberties. The DEA claims that the woman “implicitly consented” to the fake profile by granting access to her phone to the DEA.
The fundamental issue at play here, at least as Facebook sees it, is a problem of trust. The site is afraid that user confidence could be rattled by revelations like this one, and they may be right. However, no matter what their motives, the site’s public call-out of a massive government agency will certainly help draw attention to the issue.