Identity theft is a government prerogative according to the DEA’s defense in court against a lawsuit.
Apparently, if the Feds ever bust you for a crime, and get legitimate access to your private data, they are permitted to use the data about yourself, your loved ones, to steal your identity, and even endanger your children for a good cause. I don’t see how they could make those claims without asserting ownership rights over the person on the basis of a conviction for a crime.
According to Buzzfeed:
The Justice Department is claiming, in a little-noticed court filing, that a federal agent had the right to impersonate a young woman online by creating a Facebook page in her name without her knowledge. Government lawyers also are defending the agent’s right to scour the woman’s seized cell phone and to post photographs — including racy pictures of her and even one of her young son and niece — to the phony social media account, which the agent was using to communicate with suspected criminals.
The woman, Sondra Arquiett, who then went by the name Sondra Prince, first learned her identity had been commandeered in 2010 when a friend asked about the pictures she was posting on her Facebook page. There she was, for anyone with an account to see — posing on the hood of a BMW, legs spread, or, in another, wearing only skimpy attire. She was surprised; she hadn’t even set up a Facebook page.
I don’t know why Arquiett posed for such photos, but the fact that she had no Facebook account indicates she probably wasn’t trying to share the images with the web-surfing public. While celebrities are claiming that the hacking and dissemination of their nude photos is a sex crime, the Feds are doing the same thing and arguing in court that it is their right to do so.
Not even a convicted criminal ought to have their privacy abused in this way, but the Buzzfeed story says that the DEA agent set up the fake Facebook account while Arquiett was still awaiting trial. So the claim here is that this is the way the government can treat an accused suspect, not a convicted criminal.
As an indicator of what a deep criminal Arquiett is, note that the judge sentence her to nothing more than probation for her role in the drug ring.
In a court filing, a U.S. attorney acknowledges that, unbeknownst to Arquiett, Sinnigen created the fake Facebook account, posed as her, posted photos, sent a friend request to a fugitive, accepted other friend requests, and used the account “for a legitimate law enforcement purpose.”
The government’s response lays out an argument justifying Sinnigen’s actions: “Defendants admit that Plaintiff did not give express permission for the use of photographs contained on her phone on an undercover Facebook page, but state the Plaintiff 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 an ongoing criminal investigations [sic].”
That argument is problematic, according to privacy experts. “I may allow someone to come into my home and search,” said Allen, of the University of Pennsylvania, “but that doesn’t mean they can take the photos from my coffee table and post them online.”
The DEA basically used her as an undercover agent without her consent. She allowed a search and they claim that identity theft was implied in that consent. It is a ludicrous argument and, if the wrong people had been led to believe that Arquiett was working as a snitch, it could have exposed her to real danger.
And on what grounds could Arquiett legally give the DEA the authority to use her niece’s image if she is not her legal guardian.
What is especially galling about this incident is that they could have asked for Arquiett’s cooperation in exchange for dropped charges. Instead they just did it without her knowledge. Perhaps they knew she would object to some of those images being published on the internet. I doubt Arquiett would have wanted her young son’s image used to catch criminals.
This whole case reeks of arrogance and abuse. I hope she wins the lawsuit and damages the DEA.
In the meantime, since I mentioned arrogance and abuse, don’t miss this story of what happens when you don’t have ID on you and the police stop you as a passenger in a car. Also you will want to read this tragic story of what happened when the police apprehended a thief who stole a car.