The Electronic Frontier Foundation is calling on Facebook to escalate action against fake accounts set up by law enforcement to nab immigration violators.
The EFF, a nonprofit organization “defending civil liberties in the digital world,” is asking the social network to be more aggressive in requiring U.S. law enforcement to authenticate identities on the platform, according to a recent EFF blog post.
“Despite Facebook’s repeated warnings that law enforcement is required to use ‘authentic identities’ on the social media platform, cops continue to create fake and impersonator accounts to secretly spy on users,” EFF wrote in the post.
The fake identities allow police to get past the “privacy walls users put up and bypass legal requirements that might require a warrant to obtain that same information,” the EFF says.
In addition to suspending accounts, the EFF wants Facebook to undertake several other initiatives:
- Publish data on the number of fake accounts, what agencies were involved, and the resulting action by Facebook.
- To alert users and groups affected when a fake account is identified.
- Make it clear that law enforcement is “agreeing not to operate fake/impersonator profiles on the platform” by effecting changes to the “Amended Terms for Federal, State and Local Governments in the United States.”
A Facebook spokesperson told Fox News that they act quickly against fake accounts. “Law enforcement authorities, like everyone else, are required to use their real names on Facebook and we make this policy clear on our public-facing Law Enforcement Guidelines page. Operating fake accounts is not allowed, and we swiftly act on any violating accounts.”
The EFF post cites a few cases, including one involving the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In that case, widely reported by the media, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations set up a network of fake Facebook profiles and pages associated with The University of Farmington, a fake college, used to "trick" immigrants into registering with the college, the EFF said.
Following an investigation by ICE, indictments were unsealed in that case in January, and eight individuals were charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud and harboring aliens for profit. Six of the defendants were arrested in metro Detroit. Two others were arrested in Lake Mary, FL. and Culpeper, VA.
ICE said that the defendants, who are foreign citizens, conspired to help foreign nationals illegally remain and work in the country.
“As part of the scheme, the defendants/recruiters assisted foreign citizen ‘students’ in fraudulently obtaining immigration documents from the school and facilitated the creation of false student records, including transcripts, for the purpose of deceiving immigration authorities,” ICE said in a statement posted on its website.
If convicted, the defendants face a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
The EFF blog gave short shrift to this aspect of the case. “Our piece -- and our primary interest in this matter -- is regarding deception on Facebook by law enforcement,” Dave Maass, Senior Investigative Researcher at the EFF and author of the post, told Fox News in an email.
Regarding the DHS statement, “I would note that we should learn more when it works through the justice system, but reporters have raised legitimate questions about DHS's characterization of the operation,” Maass added.