German Regulators Criticize Facebook's 'Real Name' Policy

A data-protection agency in one German state has ordered social network leader Facebook to put an end to its policy that requires members to use their real names.

Unabhaengiges Landeszentrum fuer Datenschutz (ULD), which is in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, has ordered Facebook to end its real name policy, referring to a German law that allows users to use pseudonyms online. The agency noted that the law is one that guarantees the "fundamental right to freedom of expression on the Internet."

Its order applies in Schleswig-Holstein for now, but other German states may follow suit. Facebook, meanwhile, stressed that its policy is designed to protect against the abuse of user accounts. The policy states that utilizing real first and last names helps members in knowing who they're connecting with, as well as keeping the online community safe.

The ULD, however, said the policy is against the law and "the real name obligation does neither prevent abuse of the service for insults or provocations nor does it help prevent identity theft."

"It is unacceptable that a U.S. portal like Facebook violates German data protection law unopposed and with no prospect of an end," said Thilo Weichert, the country's privacy commissioner and head of ULD. "The aim of the orders of ULD is to finally bring about a legal clarification of who is responsible for Facebook and to what this company is bound to."

IT World said that the agency can only enforce the law in Schleswig-Holstein, but Weichert believes fellow German data-protection agencies will follow the northern German state's stance on the matter.

Facebook stressed that it's in compliance with European data protection principles and Irish law. The social network giant referred to a report from the Irish data protection agency, who found that the real name policy helps the service's users manage their private information more securely.

"It is the role of individual services to determine their own policies about anonymity within the governing law -- for Facebook Ireland European data protection and Irish law," a spokeswoman told CNET. "We believe the orders are without merit, a waste of German taxpayers' money and we will fight it vigorously."

 

Contact Us for News Tips, Corrections and Feedback

Create a new thread in the Streaming Video & TVs forum about this subject
This thread is closed for comments
31 comments
    Your comment
    Top Comments
  • bak0n
    I don't use my real name on any of my 17 facebook accounts.
    24
  • 11796pcs
    As much as I loathe Facebook, no one is requiring you to use their service. If you're uncomfortable putting your name on the Internet then just don't use Facebook, problem solved!
    11
  • Other Comments
  • 11796pcs
    As much as I loathe Facebook, no one is requiring you to use their service. If you're uncomfortable putting your name on the Internet then just don't use Facebook, problem solved!
    11
  • bak0n
    I don't use my real name on any of my 17 facebook accounts.
    24
  • thecolorblue
    11796pcsAs much as I loathe Facebook, no one is requiring you to use their service. If you're uncomfortable putting your name on the Internet then just don't use Facebook, problem solved!

    you seem to be missing the bit about Facebook policy being illegal in Germany.
    If facebook seeks to keep its policy as is it will likely have to leave Germany altogether... as justified by the laws of Germany... and it is a very good law. And since Germany has a >85 million people you can bet your @ss that Facebook will bend over backwards to comply.

    One question for you though is do you loathe privacy online? I see that you have not used a real name on your account there 11796pcs.
    6