The US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has agreed to a $134,000 out of court settlement for using a woman’s likeness in a fake Facebook profile, without her permission.
Sondra Arquiett was arrested for drug offences in 2010, at which point law enforcement confiscated her phone. Images found on the device were subsequently used by the DEA in order to contact members of a drug ring.
After discovering the fake profile last year, Arquiett sued the DEA for invading her privacy and violating her constitutional rights. Originally seeking $750,000 in damages, it seems Arquiett is now willing to settle for $134,000. The DEA initially argued that it had been given consent to use the images, but the decision to pay Arquiett would suggest otherwise.
While the US government is not prevented from using similar tactics again to entrap criminals, the Justice Department has stated that it is reviewing its approach to criminal investigations in light of the Arquiett deal.
"This settlement demonstrates that the government is mindful of its obligation to ensure the rights of third parties are not infringed upon in the course of its efforts to bring those who commit federal crimes to justice," Richard Hartunian, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of New York, told the Associated Press.
"It also takes into account emerging personal privacy concerns in the age of social media, and represents a fair resolution of plaintiff's claims."
This is not the first time that federal authorities have been accused of questionable tactics in their pursuit of criminals. In 2007, the FBI sent a falsified news story, purported to be from the Associated Press, to get a bomb suspect to reveal his location.
Referring to the Arquiett case, Facebook has issued a statement saying that it does not approve the creation of fake profiles.