Social Media

On Facebook, you have no right to use a fake name, a German court finds

Facebook cake
Facebook cake
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Facebook users have no rights to use an alias or pseudonym on the social networking site, according to a court ruling in Germany this week.

The ruling came after a German Data Protection Office, The Independent Centre for Privacy Protection in Schleswig-Holstein (UDL) ordered Facebook in December to remove its requirement for people to use their real names on the site. The data protection agency told Facebook that the requirement “must be immediately abandoned.”

Facebook appealed the decision, saying that by allowing people to only use the site under their real names the company was ensuring that all users of the site knew who they were connecting to.  Facebook insisted that the requirement was a core part of the company’s security and protection measures.

The UDL argued that by not allowing people to create pen names the site was stifling fair criticism and free speech.  It also argued that the real name requirement neither prevented abuse from taking place on the site nor protected users from identity theft.

The UDL said in court that under German law people have the right to be anonymous online and this law should apply to “U.S. portals” such as Facebook.  Facebook successfully argued that since the company is based in the U.S and that data is processed in Ireland, where Facebook’s EMEA Headquarters are based, it was not subject to the German requirement.

No similar law of anonymity exists in Ireland.

With this the case Facebook’s naming policy can remain.  However, the UDL’s Dr. Thilo Weichert has already begun an appeal.


Thanks to Sebastian Lasse for his help on this report.

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Piers Dillon Scott
Piers Dillon-Scott is co-editor of The Sociable and writes about stuff he finds. He likes technology, media, and using the Oxford comma (because it just makes sense).