Tech and privacy: Fake Facebook page; beacons in New York

File these couple of items over in the corner of tech and privacy.

• A DEA agent used photos from a woman’s mobile phone to create a fake Facebook page, then used that page to communicate with suspected criminals. And the Justice Department is claiming the DEA had the right to do it, according to BuzzFeed.

Sondra Arquiett had been sentenced to probation for her part in a drug ring. Her phone was seized, and the DEA agent, Timothy Sinnigen, used photos, including some of her in her underwear, and posted them to Facebook. Arquiett then sued DEA agent Timothy Sinnigen for violating her privacy.

The government’s response, according to Buzzfeed: “Defendants admit that Plaintiff did not give express permission for the use of photographs contained on her phone on an undercover Facebook page, but state the Plaintiff 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 [sic].”

That’s not sitting well with privacy experts. “I may allow someone to come into my home and search, but that doesn’t mean they can take the photos from my coffee table and post them online,” Anita L. Allen, a professor at University of Pennsylvania Law School, told BuzzFeed.

• New York City has asked a media company to take down beacons it had installed in pay-phone booths that could have been used to serve ads and track people’s movements. Titan, the company that sells ad space in the phone booths, said it will comply with the city’s request. The request came after a BuzzFeed report about the beacons, which are radio transmitters that can pick up signals from mobile phones. (BuzzFeed has specifics on how the technology works.)

The Associated Press notes that similar battles are playing out elsewhere. For example, Seattle police have surveillance cameras and transmitters; in London, an ad company installed transmitters in trash cans; and in Washington, mysterious cellphone-tracking towers have prompted concern.

 

Photo from Reuters archives

 

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