While the great Instagram Rapture of 2014 zapped millions of fake accounts, the photo-sharing service won’t soon be rid of bogus friend requests. That’s because a U.S. District Court in New Jersey ruled this week that it’s perfectly legal for police to create fake Instagram accounts to go undercover and gather evidence.
This case concerns a man named Daniel Gatson, a suspected thief who posted photos of stolen wares on his page: Cash, jewelry, and the like. His account was private, so investigators created a fake Instagram profile and befriended Gatson to gain access to his photos. After gaining access to the feed, they used his posts to obtain a search warrant for his home. GigaOm reports that Gatson’s lawyer said the trickery was in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights and requested that the evidence be thrown out.
The judge didn’t see it that way. Here’s the key bit from the opinion:
Gatson accepted the request to become friends. As a result, law enforcement officers were able to view photos and other information Gatson posted to his Instagram account. No search warrant is required for the consensual sharing of this type of information.
While criminals tend to be the ones who make boneheaded decisions on social media, sometimes it’s the other way around. Last year, an undercover police officer in Washington, D.C., inadvertently exposed her identity when she posted about her day job on her public Twitter, Tumblr, and yes, Instagram, accounts.