TECH NEWS – Facebook sent a letter to the LAPD asking them to stop creating and using fake accounts as intelligence gathering devices for their investigations
Facebook, now known as Meta, has warned the LAPD that its reported practise of creating fake accounts to surveil users and collect their data on its platforms violates the company’s terms and policies.
In a cease and desist letter to police chief Michel Moore last week, the lawyers demanded that the department stop creating “fake (or fictitious) Facebook accounts” to “impersonate legitimate users”.
The message came after internal documents obtained by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University in September showed that the LAPD encouraged police officers to collect information from suspects’ social media accounts and create a “Fictitious Online Persona” to spy on them.
According to the documents, the department also partnered with a third-party network that analyzes social media information to unlock connections between users. The NYU Law School Institute said the practice is unconstitutional, as the social network warned the LAPD for infringing on its users’ “protected First Amendment activities”.
“Our authenticity policies are intended to create a safe environment where people can trust and hold each other accountable,” Meta vice president and general counsel Roy Austin Jr wrote.
“Operating fake accounts violates the terms and policies that govern Facebook’s service and undermines trust in our community.” The LAPD did not immediately respond to the request for comment, and a sergeant in its media relations division said it was “not aware” of the letter on Thursday night.
This isn’t the first time Facebook has warned police departments not to impersonate users or make fake accounts. In 2018, the company scolded the Memphis Police Department for creating a fictitious “Bob Smith” account to keep tabs on Black Lives Matter protesters.
“There’s no excuse for the LAPD not knowing about this,” Rachel Levinson-Waldman, deputy director of the Brennan Center, told The Guardian.
“This is really important to help ensure the protection of activists for racial and social justice,” she continued, adding that she hoped the legal warning would put other departments on alert.