Feeds

Feds use phony MySpace profiles to nab bad guys

Insert ironic comment here

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Undercover US agents are infiltrating MySpace, Facebook, and other social networking sites with false online profiles in an attempt to nab users under investigation for breaking the law, a Justice Department document reveals.

The revelation exposes the Kafkaesque double standard employed by federal prosecutors, who in 2008 charged a Missouri mother with four felonies for creating a fake MySpace account. The woman, Lori Drew, helped create the profile of a fictitious teenage boy and then sent flirtatious messages to a 13-year-old girl under his name. The girl later hanged herself after receiving a message from the account saying the world would be a better place without her.

A Los Angeles jury eventually convicted Drew of three misdemeanors. The verdict was later overturned by a judge on grounds the underlying law was vague, but the action was taken against the wishes of the prosecutors trying the case.

Alas, there are no stated prohibitions against federal agents setting up fictitious accounts, even though they violate terms of service for both Facebook and MySpace. According to a 33-page document (pdf) obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, such undercover operations can be useful for a variety of purposes, including communicating with suspects or targets, gaining access to non-public information, and mapping social relationships and networks.

The Justice Department memo notes the potential problems with such covert operations with the words: "If agents violate terms of service, is that 'otherwise illegal activity'?" The question, a reference to language in MySpace terms of service, is never answered.

Social networks can prove to be a gold mine because they act as diaries, except that they are available online and potentially indestructible. User information and stored files on MySpace are kept "indefinitely," the memo states. The Associated Press has much more here. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SMASH the Bash bug! Apple and Red Hat scramble for patch batches
'Applying multiple security updates is extremely difficult'
Shellshock: 'Larger scale attack' on its way, warn securo-bods
Not just web servers under threat - though TENS of THOUSANDS have been hit
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
Hackers thrash Bash Shellshock bug: World races to cover hole
Update your gear now to avoid early attacks hitting the web
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Who.is does the Harlem Shake
Blame it on LOLing XSS terroristas
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
Stunned by Shellshock Bash bug? Patch all you can – or be punished
UK data watchdog rolls up its sleeves, polishes truncheon
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.