In response to a woman alleging the Drug Enforcement Agency created a fake profile using images and information from her cell phone, Facebook has sent a letter to the head of the bureau demanding that federal agents follow the rules like everyone else and abstain from lying about their identities.
Joe Sullivan, Facebook's chief security officer, reminded DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart that the social networking site has banned the creation and use of phony Facebook accounts.
"Facebook has long made clear that law enforcement authorities are subject to these policies," Sullivan stated in his letter. "We regard DEA's conduct to be a knowing and serious breach of Facebook's terms and policies."
In response to letter, which was sent on Oct. 17, the DEA says it was reviewing the allegations of spoofed accounts, but asserted that the practice wasn't prevalent among federal agencies.
"The department has launched a review into the incident at issue in this case," stated Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon. "That review is ongoing, but to our knowledge, this is not a widespread practice among our federal law enforcement agencies."
Sondra Arquiett says she was arrested on drug charges in July 2010, which led to the seizure of her cell phone. Arquiett says DEA agent Timothy Siggigen conducted an investigation, using a page spoofed from pictures and other information stored in her cell phone, to try to communicate with other suspects.
Arquiett is seeking $250,000 in damages, asserting that fake page contained revealing pictures of her and images of her children.
Though the Justice Department now says its reviewing the incident, the DEA defended the practice of spoofing user accounts, according to court documents it filed in August.
"[Arquiett] implicitly consented by granting access to the information stored in her cell phone and by consenting to the use of that information to aid in ... ongoing criminal investigations," stated the DEA in the August filings.
Facebook has taken authenticity seriously with regard to its user accounts. The social networking site recently had to apologize to its users, after tightening of its naming restrictions attempted to force drag kings and queens to use their given names on Facebook.
"I want to apologize to the affected community of drag queens, drag kings, transgender, and extensive community of our friends, neighbors, and members of the LGBT community for the hardship that we've put you through in dealing with your Facebook accounts over the past few weeks," said Chris Cox, chief product officer at Facebook, in a post.
Facebook eventually relaxed the rules, allowing users to operate on Facebook under the names they go by offline.