Judge says cops can trick you into befriending them on Instagram

In what might be the slowest tech news week of the year, there’s a weird tidbit out of New Jersey. A U.S. District Judge has ruled that cops are allowed to create fake identities on Instagram to follow suspects. As we’ve seen in the past, criminals occasionally post evidence of their crimes on social media applications, and image-heavy Instagram is no different.

The ruling came about after police officers befriended a serial burglar — Daniel Gatson — on Instagram. The person had posted shots of certain wares, described in the opinion as “large amounts of cash and jewelry, which were quite possibly the proceeds from the specified federal offenses.” He protected his Instagram account, so you had to request to follow him to see the content, and the officers created a fake account to get that access.

They used the picture evidence to obtain a search warrant for Gatson’s home. In return, Gatson tried to get the evidence thrown out, saying it violated his Fourth Amendment Rights. The judge wasn’t buying it, because Gatson approved the agent’s friend request. “No search warrant is required for the consensual sharing of this type of information,” the Court said in its opinion.

This is, of course, not the first time that social media and the law have intersected. Agents, officers, and lawyers have used Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites to gather intel and evidence in cases, resulting in varying degrees of public outrage. The DEA was scolded by Facebook this past October after it came to light that the agency had taken an arrested woman’s photos from her phone and used them to create a fake profile in the hopes of gathering intel from her contacts. The case hasn’t gone to trial yet.

In August last year, Oakland prosecutors were able to up a man’s charge from vehicular manslaughter to murder using some of his morbid tweets. Some courts have even ruled that a plaintiff had to hand over his Facebook password to a defendant so content on the site could be used as evidence.

But a legal expert who spoke to Ars Technica about the case said they believe this might be the first incident involving Instagram.

 

Uber compromises with Portland and stops service for three months

The unthinkable has occurred: Uber has compromised with a local government, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. Uber has agreed to suspend its operations for three months in Portland, Oregon, as the company works with local regulators to reach a legal solution. This comes weeks after Portland’s city government sued the ridesharing company for violating local taxi ordinances. Sound the bells because an Uber-government alliance is a miracle and an angel just got its wings. Or something.

Here’s why Sidecar wasn’t named in the DAs’ ridesharing lawsuit

If you missed the news, the Los Angeles and San Francisco District Attorneys’ Offices are jointly suing Uber for misleading the public about its background checks, among other reasons. San Francisco DA George Gascón explained that they settled with Lyft for $500,000.

But missing from all the hubbub was one prominent name: Sidecar. The DAs didn’t mention the third company in the ridesharing trifecta, which left people wondering why. When the DAs threatened legal action back in September, Sidecar was one of the companies they named.

It turns out Sidecar wasn’t overlooked. The DAs didn’t name it because they’re still in legal negotiations. A Sidecar spokesperson told me, “We applaud the prosecutors for deciding to let the CPUC define regulations for this innovative new category of Shared Rides and we will continue to operate Sidecar Shared Rides in California. However, we disagree with The San Francisco and Los Angeles County District Attorneys’ Office on other issues and will continue to work with them until there is a resolution.”

In other words, Uber wouldn’t comply with the DAs’ requirements, Lyft agreed to, and Sidecar is still haggling. Gascón told Reuters Sidecar could still be sued if it doesn’t reach a peaceful settlement.