Are Detectives Stalking Your Social Media? Facebook Demands LAPD Stop Using Fake Profiles to Spy on Users Suspected of Crime

Los Angeles Police Department
Last week, lawyers representing Facebook demanded the LAPD immediately refrain from using fake (or dummy) Facebook accounts to impersonate legitimate users saying it violates their terms of service and other policies. File photo: Henrik A. Jonsson, Shutter Stock, licensed.

NEW YORK, NY – Facebook has issued a stern warning to the Los Angeles Police Department, telling the law enforcement agency to stop using fake accounts and profiles on the popular social media platform to spy on and collect data from users suspected of committing crimes, saying it violates their terms of service and other policies.

LAPD police Chief Michel Moore received a cease and desist letter from lawyers representing Meta – Facebook’s parent company – last week, with Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Roy Austin Jr. demanding that the police department immediately refrain from using “fake (or dummy) Facebook accounts” to “impersonate legitimate users.”

“Our authenticity policies are intended to create a safe environment where people can trust and hold one another accountable,” Austin said. “Operating fake accounts violates the terms and policies that govern the Facebook service, and undermines trust in our community.”

In addition, Austin insisted they end user data collection via a third party tech company, Voyager Labs, which reports say has been responsible for predicting “emerging threats” for the LAPD since 2019, helping the department to solve crime by analyzing social media information such as a person’s friends, posts and usernames.

“It has also come to our attention that the LAPD has used a third-party vendor to collect data on our platforms regarding our users,” the letter reads. “Under our policies, developers are prohibited from using data obtained on our platforms for surveillance, including the processing of platform data about people, groups, or events for law enforcement or national security purposes.”

New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice had previously obtained documents in September that revealed that the LAPD instructed officers to create a “Fictitious Online Persona” to spy on suspects after collecting information from them on their social media accounts.

The news of the LAPD’s social media surveillance was condemned by legal groups, including the NYU Law School Institute, who called the spying “unconstitutional” and insisted that it violated the “First Amendment protected activities” of Facebook users.

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