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Facebook tells the DEA it can't use phony profiles to go after suspects

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Everyone has to use their real name on Facebook, even the feds

Facebook has a message for the DEA: if you want to use our service, you have to use your real name. In a letter sent to the Drug Enforcement Administration on Friday, chief security office Joe Sullivan chided the agency for allowing one of its officers to lure criminals with a fake Facebook account created in a suspect's name. "We regard the DEA's conduct to be a knowing and serious breach of Facebook's terms and policies," writes Sullivan. He adds that the social network "asks that the DEA immediately confirm that it has ceased all activities on Facebook that involve the impersonation of others or that otherwise violate our terms and policies."

The issue came to the fore earlier this month when BuzzFeed reported on a case filed in a federal district court. The suspect, 28-year-old Sondra Arquiett, sued DEA agent Timothy Sinnigen for violating her privacy and putting her in harm's way. In court filings, the DEA admitted that Sinnigen used photos obtained from Arquiett's cell phone to create a phony Facebook account.

"A knowing and serious breach of Facebook's terms and policies."

The agency defended those actions, saying she "implicitly consented by granting access to the information stored in her cell phone and by consenting to the use of that information to aid in an ongoing criminal investigations." Arqiette, who was arrested in 2010, later pled guilty to charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, and was sentenced to probation. She's asking for $250,000 in damages, according to the Associated Press. In response to the allegations, a DEA spokesperson tells the AP that it has "launched a review" into the matter, adding, "that review is ongoing, but to our knowledge, this is not a widespread practice among our federal law enforcement agencies."

In recent years, Facebook has fought successfully to ensure that users on the service represent themselves with their "real names." The company won a legal battle last year to institute the policy in Germany, though earlier this month it found itself in hot water after cracking down on drag queens who used their stage names online. The company later clarified its policy to note that "real names" are the names people use in public, not necessarily their legal names. In any event, the DEA's use of Facebook breach the terms of use, and, as Sullivan writes, that company "has long made clear that law enforcement authorities are subject to these policies." Facebook has closed Arquiett's phony account.