Germany wants Facebook to allow pseudonyms

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The Hamburg Data Protection Authority is none too pleased with Facebook over the social networking site’s policy of not allowing people to use pseudonyms and has challenged this policy.

The regulator said that the policy is violative of the right to privacy and that the site could not force users to give official ID such as a passport or identity card, nor could it unilaterally change their chosen names to their “real” names on the site.

Facebook has been increasingly strict about its real-name policy. The social networking site limits individuals to one account each and has frequently taken harsh steps of suspending people’s accounts until the owner can prove their name or has the name changed to a real one.=

“As in many other complaints against Facebook, this case demonstrates that the network wants to enforce the so-called real name policy with no regard to national legislation,” Hamburg commissioner for data protection and freedom of information Johannes Caspar said in a press release [in German].

The commissioner 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.

He added that in addition “the unauthorised modification of the pseudonym blatantly violated the right to informational self-determination and constitutes a deliberate infringement of the Data Protection Act”.

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 European Union headquarters are based in that nation.