Police Can Create Fake Facebook Accounts To Lure Suspects, Judge Rules

A ruling by a federal judge has declared that police officers can use fake Facebook accounts to try and lure in suspects.

This decision was reached last week after United States District Judge William Martini denied a motion by a defendant to try and negate evidence that had been brought together from his Instagram profile. This had only been amassed after the accused had accepted the friend request of a fake account that had been created by police.

Daniel Gatson was the defendant who tried to stop the evidence that had been collected from his social media website being used in court. Gatson’s Instagram profile was able to be examined for evidence because he had made friends with an undercover account.

Gatson stated that police didn’t have any reason to look through his account. However Judge Martini insisted that since Gatson accepted the friend request from police, he gave them the opportunity to look through his photos and other information. In the process, he allowed authorities to bypass the need for a search warrant and this meant that the sharing was now consensual.

Judge Martini’s decision means that police officers from across the U.S. will now be able to try and lure in suspects by “friending” them on the likes of Facebook, Instagram, and various other social media websites. The evidence that they gather will then be able to be used in court.

Social media websites have registered their outrage at the fact that law enforcement have been using fake accounts to target their users. Over the past 12 months police officers have been using this tactic on a regular basis.

According to CNN, Facebook has previously stated that it is “deeply troubled” by the fact that its users give consent to a legal search by accepting friend requests from these accounts.

The company even sent a letter to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration that demanded agents and police officers immediately cease impersonating users on the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

In a letter to DEA head, Michele Leonhart, Facebook chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, wrote, “The DEA’s deceptive actions… threaten the integrity of our community. Using Facebook to impersonate others abuses that trust and makes people feel less safe and secure when using our service.”

[Image via BP]