Top German data cop slaps down Facebook’s real name policy

29 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Anonymous on Facebook: Germany upholds right to use fake names.

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. The company, whose European headquarters are in Ireland, can’t argue it’s only subject to that country’s law, he said. “Anyone who stands on our pitch also has to play our game,” said Caspar. “The arbitrary change of the user name blatantly violates” privacy rights. 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.

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. 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. The case was taken up after a woman filed a complaint to the Hamburg watchdog, stating that Facebook blocked her account because she used a fake name, demanded her personal ID and then proceeded to change the account to her real name. 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.

Facebook was upset with the decision. “The use of authentic names on Facebook protects people’s privacy and safety by ensuring people know who they’re sharing and connecting with,” Reuters quoted a spokesperson for the company as saying. Tuesday’s order is based on a complaint by a user who’d sought to prevent her private Facebook account from being used by people wishing to contact her about business matters.

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. Caspar now argues that a ruling last year by Europe’s top court on Google Inc.’s search engine results changed the situation and allows him to regulate Facebook. 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. 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.

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.

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