Facebook has been under harsh criticism for its “real names only” policy, and German regulators have even managed to ban it on its territory. That’s good news if you’re a German – you can use a fake name and you won’t have to provide any official proof or ID – but for the rest of us, the rule still remains in place.
It all started after a woman complained about the fact that Facebook did not allow her to keep her private life separate from her business. When she wanted to use a pseudonym, the social network froze her account, asked her for ID and changed her fake username.
The decision of the Hamburg data protection authority overruled Facebook’s argument that it only has to obey the Irish laws on data privacy because its European headquarters are located in Ireland. If that were the case, Facebook would win, as Ireland legally approved the real-names policy back in December 2011.
But their position was fought off in 2014 when the European Court of Justice had ruled in favor of the users regarding the right to be forgotten. Back then, it was decided that Google had to abide by local laws if the company had any economic activity in any country.
So Johannes Caspar, Hamburg’s commissioner for data protection, used that precedent in the fight against Facebook’s policy, arguing that “anyone who stands on our pitch also has to play our game.” Therefore, the number one social platform has to work by the German law, which allows pseudonym use, while companies aren’t allowed to require official proof, such as any form of ID.
Even though Facebook’s real-name policy was designed to keep the platform as safe as possible from any people who would like to take advantage of a fake name, it seemed to have backfired. A lot of controversy had sparked when rights groups brought to the media’s attention the fact that the policy might put victims of domestic violence or other defenseless people in danger.
But even with Germany winning this one, Facebook is not likely to retract its policy in the rest of the world, mostly because it helps the company have a far more reliable database of real information that can be a good source of revenue when it comes to advertising.
Image Source: Mashable