Everyone living in the U.S. has certain inalienable rights and protections including the right to privacy. Police officers around the country routinely engage in questionable practices under the guise that their actions are promoting public safety. In some cases, however, the actions taken by police officers and investigators teeter on or even cross lines related to the individual rights of citizens.
A case currently pending in New York state raises questions surrounding the rights of law enforcement when it comes to private digital accounts.
Police officers involved in so-called Internet sting operations routinely set up fake profiles and accounts in the hopes of uncovering or inciting criminal activity. However, the case in New York was filed by a woman after a police investigator set up a fake Facebook profile in her name and then used the profile to communicate with individuals believed to be involved in a drug distribution operation.
In 2011, the woman was arrested and faced felony drug charges related to her alleged role in a cocaine distribution ring. As part of a plea deal, the woman pleaded guilty to lesser drug charges. The woman also permitted officers to search her cellphone during which time investigators collected and took information and photographs which were later used and posted on the fake Facebook account set up in the woman's name.
In the lawsuit, the woman asserts she has suffered great emotional distress as a result of the investigator’s actions and now fears for her safety from some of the individuals targeted by investigators.
Source: The New York Daily News, "Drug Enforcement Agency sued for fake Facebook account," Associated Press, Oct. 7, 2014