The matter of privacy is of paramount importance on the internet and, recently, Facebook has been told to allow fake names by a German company, situated in Hamburg. After an incident with one of their own employees, they have made it clear that pseudonyms should be permitted on Facebook accounts, because otherwise it would be a violation of their right.
Along the years, the social media networking website has been forced to change their privacy setting several times due to false reports. They have fixed their enforcement mechanism after an incident where a Facebook user reported hundreds of accounts of men and women (mainly drag queens or drag kings) as being false, which led to the website automatically suspending them.
The more recent issue began when a woman’s Facebook page was suspended and was demanded a copy of her personal ID in order to unblock it. Upon providing the information, the social networking website automatically changed her pseudonym to her real name and did not allow her to switch it back, even though the woman’s fake name was only meant for avoiding being contacted for business on her personal page.
If she did not accepted the change, she would have not been allowed access to her account.
The German data protection company has then issued a complaint, stating that Facebook has no right to demand its users from using their real names. However, the social media giant has not remained mute and instead countered with their own argument that since their headquarters is located in Ireland, Irish law applies.
In 2011, an audit by Irish data collectors had deemed the policy as justified and acceptable that users should be forced into using their real names in order to support child safety and avoid online harassment. Facebook also claims that the requirement is there in order to keep the community safe and let everyone know who they’re connecting with.
The German company, however, was not so easily persuaded. While Facebook headquarters is situated in Ireland, the company itself is settled in Hamburg, so they insisted that German law should apply. Under Germany’s Telemedia Act, service providers must enable their users to use telemedia or offer payment anonymously if it’s possible and reasonable.
Facebook released statements that Irish law should apply instead, as it was an unilateral decision for the sake of the community’s protection, but Johannes Caspar, the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection, rejects the argument and claims that “… anyone who stands on our pitch also has to play our game.”.
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