A woman complained to the Hamburg Data Protection authority that Facebook had banned her account for using a pseudonym.
Authorities of Germany, France, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands are now collaborating to investigate the privacy policies of Facebook.
Thus, the German data protection watchdog has informed Facebook that it can’t force people to use their real names.
So it seems that Facebook asked the woman for a copy of her ID and, afterwards, changed the pseudonym she had inputted for her account to her real name.
The woman insisted that she had used a nickname so that she wouldn’t be contacted for business purposes through her personal Facebook account.
Facebook, its headquarters being in Ireland, counter-argued that, due to Irish law, the real name policy ought to be allowed and applied. This certain policy is said to prevent online harassment and support child safety.
A Facebook spokesperson said that:
“The use of authentic names on Facebook protects people’s privacy and safety by ensuring people to know who they’re sharing and connecting with.”
Johannes Caspar, Hamburg’s commissioner for data protection, stated that Facebook has to abide German law. He said that in Germany the Irish data protection law isn’t necessarily applicable and that Facebook has to play their game.
Facebook’s help pages state that their real name policy is implemented so as to confer safety to its community.
The company states that
“Facebook is a community where people use their authentic identities. We require people to provide the name they use in real life; that way, you always know who you’re connecting with. This helps keep our community safe.”
Casper reported that, according to Germany’s Telemedia Act, the recipient and consumer of this service is to be informed of the indulgence that they may pay for this service either anonymously or by pseudonym, whenever possible.
Chris Cox, Facebook’s chief product officer, stated that it was never intended for people to be constrained to use their legal name, however, in the spirit of this social media’s policies, it would be advisable that everyone use their authentic name.
All in all, the disposition by German authorities that compelled Facebook to allow Germans use fake names was disappointing for the social media giant.
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