German regulator orders Facebook to allow pseudonyms

29 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Facebook Must Allow Fake Names, Says German Regulator.

Facebook has been told to allow people to use pseudonyms on its site by a German regulator, which has ruled that the site’s “real name” policy violates the right to privacy.Brussels – Facebook may not prevent its users from using fake names, a German privacy watchdog said on Tuesday, in the latest privacy setback for the US company in Europe. The firm said in a statement that the courts have been here before and have found that what Facebook does is in local order. “We’re disappointed Facebook’s authentic name policy is being revisited, since German courts have reviewed it on multiple occasions and regulators have determined it fully complies with applicable European data protection law,” a spokesperson said.

The Hamburg data protection authority, which is responsible for policing Facebook in Germany, said the social network firm could not unilaterally change users’ chosen usernames to their real names, nor could it ask them for official ID. Facebook’s enforcement of its policy, which limits individuals to one account each and requires that those accounts be held under their real name, frequently results in accounts with suspected pseudonyms being locked by the company until the owner can prove their name, or even just the name being changed back by Facebook. Legal action in 2013 led to a court decision which found that German privacy laws don’t apply to Facebook, and that the Data Protection Commissioner for the German state of Schleswig-Holstein had to accept that. Johannes Caspar, the Hamburg commissioner for data protection and freedom of information, said: “As in many other complaints against Facebook, this case demonstrates that the network wants to enforce the so-called real names policy with no regard to national legislation.” He added that the requirement to use a real name violates the rights, enshrined in German law, to use a pseudonym, while requests for digital copies of an official photo ID also contradict the passport and ID card law. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who uses the Twitter name @Finkd, said recently in a celebrity studded Q&A on the site that Facebook takes the need for real names very seriously, and that people do not fully understand the real name/pseudonym situation. “Real names are an important part of how our community works for a couple of reasons.

A woman had complained to the Hamburg watchdog after Facebook blocked her account for using a pseudonym, requested a copy of her ID and unilaterally changed her username into her real name. “The use of authentic names on Facebook protects people’s privacy and safety by ensuring people know who they’re sharing and connecting with,” said a spokesperson for the company. Facebook has repeatedly clashed with European data regulators, arguing that it should only be bound by the decisions of the Irish data protection office, since its EU headquarters are based in that nation. Facebook’s response is that the policy actually protects user safety and privacy – plus German regulations shouldn’t affect it as its European headquarters is located in Ireland. In February, the site was accused of discrimination after a number of Native American activists reported having their accounts suspended or names changed to match European norms.

Verified email addresses: All users on Independent Media news sites are now required to have a verified email address before being allowed to comment on articles. Dana Lone Hill argued that: “Katy Perry’s Left Shark from her Super Bowl halftime show has a Facebook page and we have to prove who we are.” The policy hit the headlines again in June after Zip, a trans former Facebook employee who was instrumental in introducing the company’s custom gender feature, was required to “prove” her name to the company – the same name that had been on her name badge while she worked for Facebook. “We use names that don’t match our ID on Facebook for safety, or because we’re trans, or because we’re just straight up not known by our legal names,” Zip wrote. “Having chosen its policy, Facebook has to enforce it. There are plenty of cases — for example, a woman leaving an abusive relationship and trying to avoid her violent ex-husband — where preventing the ex-husband from creating profiles with fake names and harassing her is important.

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