A German court ruled in favor of Facebook’s real names policy, stating that because the social network is headquartered in Ireland, it does not need to comply with an earlier German agency demand for the company to allow pseudonyms, the AP reported.
Last December, the Unabhaengiges Landeszentrum fuer Datenschutz maintained that as German law protects “the fundamental right to freedom of expression on the Internet,” German citizens should be able to utilize the social network “largely unnoticed and without fear of unpleasant consequences” by using a pseudonym. That’s a direct contradiction of Facebook’s real names policy, which requires users to use their real names “so you always know who you’re connecting with,” as the policy states. Facebook said the rule is designed to “keep communities safe,” though it does little to actively enforce the policy when user’s opt for alternative names.
“It is unacceptable that a U.S. portal like Facebook violates German data protection law unopposed and with no prospect of an end,” Thilo Weichert, Privacy Commissioner and head of ULD, said in a statement at the time. “The aim of the orders of ULD is to finally bring about a legal clarification of who is responsible for Facebook and to what this company is bound to.”
The court effectively ruled that German data protection laws did not apply to Facebook as the company’s European division was headquartered in Ireland and outside of German jurisdiction.
In response, the ULD pointed out that the ruling effectively creates “a one-stop-shop system such as in a European privacy basic regulation,” according to a translated statement from the German data protection agency. It vowed to appeal on the grounds that the agency should have jurisdiction over the use of the network by German citizens.
Thilo Weichert ,head of the ULD, described the court’s decision as “more than amazing” and “contradictory.”
Naturally, Facebook celebrated the decision.
“We are pleased with the decision, [which] we believe … is a step into the right direction,” a Facebook spokesman said in a statement. “We hope that our critics will understand that it is the role of individual services to determine their own policies about anonymity within the governing law – for Facebook Ireland European data protection and Irish law. We therefore feel affirmed that the orders are without merit.”