A report from the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General found that FBI special agents “sometimes used photographs of young female support staff employees to pose as minor children or sex workers to entice sexual predators on various social media websites.”
The report came after a special agent was alleged to have had an inappropriate relationship with an FBI staffer that “included the FBI special agent requesting the support staff employee provide him with provocative pictures of herself for online [undercover] operations,” according to the report. That agent told employees not to tell anyone, including their supervisors, about his operations, and didn’t keep any documentation about how the photos were obtained or used, and the FBI didn’t have records of where they were posted or whether they were still up.
In general, the FBI didn’t have any policy on getting written consent before using photos for online undercover work and there wasn’t any particular oversight of how they were used, according to the report.
The report recommended that the FBI adopt policies around the use of photos of non-certified undercover employees for online operations and, if the FBI continues the practice, set formal guidelines, get written consent from employees, document when and where photos are used. In a response shared with the report, the FBI said it “fully accepts these recommendations” and will update its guidelines “in the coming weeks.”