Facebook, now known as Meta, has formally contacted the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to request the police department stop using phony profiles on Facebook’s platform to spy on its users.
In order to solve crimes, the U.S. police department has been recently working with a tech firm to analyze Facebook user profiles and gather their personal data.
Lawyers asked that the department stop creating “fake (or dummy) Facebook accounts” to “impersonate legitimate users” in a cease and desist letter sent to police chief Michel Moore last week, New York Post reported.
Roy Austin, Facebook’s vice president and deputy general counsel for civil rights, wrote in a letter:
Not only do LAPD instructional documents use Facebook as an explicit example in advising officers to set up fake social media accounts, but documents also indicate that LAPD policies simply allow officers to create fake accounts for “online investigative activity.”
While the legitimacy of such policies may be up to the LAPD, officers must abide by Facebook’s policies when creating accounts on our services. The Police Department should cease all activities on Facebook that involve the use of fake accounts, impersonation of others, and collection of data for surveillance purposes.
Facebook has maintained its stance against fake accounts on the platform, saying that it wants to “create a safe environment where people can trust and hold one another accountable,” Roy Austin wrote. “Operating fake accounts violates the terms and policies that govern the Facebook service, and undermines trust in our community,” he added.
The incident came after internal documents released by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University in September revealed that the LAPD encouraged police to collect suspects’ social media account information and create a “Fictitious Online Persona” to spy on them.
The LAPD stated that the software was helpful in helping the LAPD’s robbery and homicide division collect evidence as well as investigate the activities of street gangs that frequently interact online.
Back in 2018, the company also criticized the Memphis Police Department for creating a fake “Bob Smith” account to track down Black Lives Matter protestors.