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German Regulators Criticize Facebook's 'Real Name' Policy

By - Source: ULD | B 31 comments

Officials call on Facebook to stop requiring the use of real names on the social network.

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."

 

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Top Comments
  • 24 Hide
    bak0n , December 23, 2012 3:55 AM
    I don't use my real name on any of my 17 facebook accounts.
  • 11 Hide
    11796pcs , December 23, 2012 3:30 AM
    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!
Other Comments
  • 11 Hide
    11796pcs , December 23, 2012 3:30 AM
    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!
  • Display all 31 comments.
  • 24 Hide
    bak0n , December 23, 2012 3:55 AM
    I don't use my real name on any of my 17 facebook accounts.
  • 6 Hide
    thecolorblue , December 23, 2012 4:17 AM
    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.
  • 3 Hide
    nolarrow , December 23, 2012 5:34 AM
    So the Germans are against Orwellian Facebook......... the Germans are against Orwellian Facebook. Wait wait. What I'm trying to say is the Germans are against Orwellian Facebook?

    When I think of Unabhaengiges Landeszentrum fuer Datenschutz I don't immediately think of freedom of speech and anonymity on the Internet. +1 STR / STAM to the Germans.
  • 4 Hide
    kingnoobe , December 23, 2012 6:08 AM
    Question for you color where the hell did you come up with that (in regards to the other guy).

    If you think you can't use fake names on facebook still you're all kinds of special. They just can't be completely retarded. And as far as privacy if you're stupid enough to put anything you don't want others seeing online no matter where its at or the "security" to keep it private.. All I can say is LOL!!!
  • -7 Hide
    abbadon_34 , December 23, 2012 7:38 AM
    "fundamental right to freedom of expression on the Internet."

    Except for its own WWII history. Irony or hypocrisy?
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , December 23, 2012 9:55 AM
    Am I the only one wondering why Facebook stressed that they are in compliance with Irish law, in this matter regarding German law?
  • -5 Hide
    drwho1 , December 23, 2012 10:35 AM
    WWIII ... because of ...Facebook?

    /sarcasm
  • -2 Hide
    11796pcs , December 23, 2012 11:16 AM
    thecolorblueyou 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.

    Zuckerburg obviously believes having people use their real names is important, so why shouldn't he be able to run his service like he wants without having the government pop in to regulate something that absolutely no one is required to use. And let me guess, your real name isn't "thecolorblue" in real life is it? Everyone uses aliases on Tom's. And that's fine, but if Tom's wants to someday require people to use their real names they should be able to. It's their own service, they can do whatever they want with it.
  • 1 Hide
    thecolorblue , December 23, 2012 11:16 AM
    kingnoobeQuestion for you color where the hell did you come up with that (in regards to the other guy).If you think you can't use fake names on facebook still you're all kinds of special. They just can't be completely retarded. And as far as privacy if you're stupid enough to put anything you don't want others seeing online no matter where its at or the "security" to keep it private.. All I can say is LOL!!!

    facebookpolicy is to permanently close accounts with fake names. that is a fact on record.

    the "other guy" was defending facebook, thus my wondering about the hypocritical nature of defending a company with an archaic "real name" policy while simultaneously using a fake. name in this forum.
  • 2 Hide
    thecolorblue , December 23, 2012 11:18 AM
    abbadon_34"fundamental right to freedom of expression on the Internet."Except for its own WWII history. Irony or hypocrisy?

    at's just plain lousy with stupid now isn't it. German history is itself a reason for the fact that Germany of 2012 has some of the most aggressive "privacy rights" on e planet for its citizenry.
  • -2 Hide
    thecolorblue , December 23, 2012 11:22 AM
    11796pcsZuckerburg obviously believes having people use their real names is important, so why shouldn't he be able to run his service like he wants without having the government pop in to regulate something that absolutely no one is required to use. And let me guess, your real name isn't "thecolorblue" in real life is it? Everyone uses aliases on Tom's. And that's fine, but if Tom's wants to someday require people to use their real names they should be able to. It's their own service, they can do whatever they want with it.

    ahh... so you believe that websites are allowed to break national laws at their arbitrary whimsy and then continue to provide services within that country? is that your position? really?
  • 0 Hide
    techcurious , December 23, 2012 11:42 AM
    thecolorblueahh... so you believe that websites are allowed to break national laws at their arbitrary whimsy and then continue to provide services within that country? is that your position? really?

    I don't think he is suggesting anyone break any laws.. he is suggesting that there should not be a law to regulate something like Facebook's naming requirements. If privacy is that important to someone, that person can avoid using Facebook.
    Not using your real name more or less defeats one of the primary purposes of Facebook doesn't it? You can't reconnect with old friends if they are using nicknames..
    That said, I didn't use my real name on my new facebook account. I used an obvious nickname, cause I got fed up with clients wanting to friend me on my first account with my real name! Point is, Facebook can't really stop you from using a fake name.. it's not like they do an ID check..
  • -1 Hide
    chewy1963 , December 23, 2012 12:06 PM
    thecolorblueahh... so you believe that websites are allowed to break national laws at their arbitrary whimsy and then continue to provide services within that country? is that your position? really?


    Yes!
  • 0 Hide
    velocityg4 , December 23, 2012 12:40 PM
    I don't see why it matters whether or not Facebook follows German law. Last I check Facebook is in the United States. If Germans want to connect to an American site then they have to accept that they are going to only get the privacy protections of US law.

    It's not like Facebook requires all women to cover themselves head to toe in their photos. Just to make sure they comply with the laws in a few extreme Muslim countries. Nor submit all user posts to censorship by Chinese authorities.
  • 2 Hide
    11796pcs , December 23, 2012 2:35 PM
    thecolorbluefacebookpolicy is to permanently close accounts with fake names. that is a fact on record.the "other guy" was defending facebook, thus my wondering about the hypocritical nature of defending a company with an archaic "real name" policy while simultaneously using a fake. name in this forum.

    I'm not arguing for Facebook. I'm arguing against the German law, and in arguing against the German law I just so happen to be supporting Facebook's side. I don't support sites which require real names to be used and therefore I do not have a Facebook. If Germany required Google to put a picture of Angela Merkel on their German home page I would be against that too because my core argument is against intrusive laws and not about real name policies. I'm simply pushing a laissez-faire argument and nothing more.
  • 3 Hide
    Robi_g , December 23, 2012 3:34 PM
    Godwins law holding up here nicely
  • -4 Hide
    punahou1 , December 23, 2012 3:36 PM
    Maybe they are trying to protect the relatives of infamouse nazis?
  • -1 Hide
    kinggraves , December 23, 2012 6:13 PM
    Germany's laws are the business of Germany and it's people. I personally think most of the EU is about a half step away from falling to pieces at any given moment, but Germany is actually one of the strongest pillars in it. Germany has the right to block Facebook if Facebook is going against one of the laws in their country. China and the Middle East have those same rights. Again, that's between Germany and it's citizens to make or change laws. It is not for a US company to decide what's right for Germany. Facebook has the right to conduct their business however they want, but the consequences of doing so will be to lose Germans as customers. Just as ATnT has to deal with the consequences of losing my business to another company for their bandwidth rate extortion. Governments should not submit to the policies of business entities and ignore laws to suit them. Businesses do not decide laws, this isn't the US we're talking about.
  • 0 Hide
    smithereen , December 23, 2012 6:37 PM
    Why, exactly, does Facebook, a US company, have to comply with German law simply because Germans can access the internet? Nobody is requiring anyone to use Facebook. To me it seems that by this logic, all women photographed on Facebook should be required to wear a niqab, to obay Sharia law!
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