Fake Accounts On Instagram Are Legal If You’re A Cop
You think creating fake identities on social networks is a cyber-crime, right? Well, think again – if you’re a cop.
A U.S. District Judge has now announced that cops are allowed to create fake identities on Instagram to follow suspects. This ruling has sprouted from the history of criminals posting (and boasting) evidence of their crimes on social media apps, and image-influenced Instagram is the best app to catch them with proof.
One recent crime was caught when police officers followed the account of a serial burglar, Daniel Gatson, on Instagram. Gatson had posted shots of certain wares, described as “large amounts of cash and jewelry, which were quite possibly the proceeds from the specified federal offenses,” in the Court’s opinion.
Furthermore, he had his Instagram account on privacy, which meant you had to request to follow him to see the content, so the officers created a fake account to get that access.
The pictures led the officers to obtain a search warrant for Gatson’s home. Gatson, retaliated and tried to prevent the search of evidence by saying it violated his Fourth Amendment Rights. The judge stood his ground, since it was Gatson who had accepted the officer’s friend request in the first place.
“No search warrant is required for the consensual sharing of this type of information,” the Court said in its opinion.
However, this is not the first time that posts of people on social media have led to legal action being taken. Police officers and lawyers have used tweets to show intent in murder charges, and Facebook messages were also used by prosecutors in a New York gang raid last year.
This has, unsurprisingly, resulted in massive public outrage. Facebook warned the Detective’s Endowment Association (DEA), when it was revealed that the agency had taken photos from an arrested woman’s phone to create a fake profile in the order to gathering intelligence from her contacts.
The widespread use of social sites has become so ingrained in our lives that even courts are adding legal actions and rules with respect to offences through the sites. Some courts have even ruled that a plaintiff had to hand over his Facebook password to a defendant so content on the site could be used as evidence.
You can have a look at the official ruling here.