Although the U.S. Government did not admit wrongdoing it has reached a settlement with Sondra Arquiett for the sum of $134,000. The government used some of Sondra's information to create a false Facebook page as part of a government sting operation. This raises questions of privacy, government interference, entrapment, and whether the government should be allowed to steal someone's identity. The settlement would suggest that the government believes that it did indeed harm Sondra, although not admitting any wrongdoing would contradict this fact.
The government agreed review the undercover tactic that stole Sondra's identity after it defended the practice for some time. So despite the fact that the government believes that it should be able to steal someone's identity in order to catch criminals, but also agrees that it shouldn't. Find this confusing? Most people do. That's because it is confusing in that the government would pay out to someone for doing what they consider the right thing.
In a statement by the US Attorney it was claimed that as the government is mindful of its obligation to protect third parties on the rights of citizens it may occasionally, and accidentally, cross the line. This is why settlement was made. This is being offered is a fair resolution due to emerging concerns over privacy in social media, specifically Facebook.
The allegations were that the DEA stole photographs and additional personal information from Sondra's phone and use them to create a false page on Facebook. This page, allegedly, was going to be used to trick her friends and any associates into revealing criminal activity. The fake Facebook page included photos of Sondra as well as her niece, son, and other family members. The page was created after a 2010 drug bust in which Sondra was arrested at her cell phone was seized.
Sondra pled guilty in 2011 several crimes including a drug conspiracy charge. She was sentenced to time served and home confinement. In 2013 she sued the government for emotional distress as well as being put in danger because she felt the fake page gave the false impression that she was cooperating with the DEA. She accused the agency of using her identity to make contact with dangerous individuals. She felt this put her directly in danger because they were using her identity to make these connections.
Initially defending the DEA, the justice department claims that Sondra, "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 investigations". These actions drew concern from Justice Department officials, and a review was launched in 2014 as it began attracting more and more public attention.
It is important to note that this settlement does not prohibit the DEA from doing this in the future. A justice department spokesperson said that after reviewing the case it is a valid form of investigation but that in the future they must make clear the necessity of protecting individuals as well as their privacy when it comes online interactions as well as any other aspect of a criminal investigation.