Facebook forced to accept fake names in Germany

Germany 1:0 Facebook.

Germany has managed to stop Facebook from forcing its people to use real names on its website, the media reported on Wednesday.

According to a report by BBC, the Hamburg data protection authority said the social network could not change people's chosen usernames or ask them to provide any official ID.

Prior to the ruling, Facebook blocked an account set up by a woman who didn't use her real name. The social media site said it was disappointed with the ruling: "The use of authentic names on Facebook protects people's privacy and safety by ensuring people know who they're sharing and connecting with," the company said.

Facebook's policy to force people into using real-life names has been frequently criticised. Among the people who don’t agree with this rule are members of the LGBT community who might face intimidation in their communities, Native Americans whose names often incorporate animals, natural features or other elements that can be wrongly identified as pseudonyms, as well as domestic violence victims who believe anonymity is crucial to their personal safety.

The woman in Germany had wanted to use a pseudonym to avoid unsolicited contact in relation to her business, BBC says.

The Hamburg data protection authority said Facebook’s rule violates an individual’s privacy rights.

It also rejected an argument from Facebook that because the company's European offices were in Ireland, it should be subject to Irish law.

In an audit in December 2011, Ireland's privacy watchdog ruled Facebook's real-name policy did not contravene the country's regulations.

"For that matter, Facebook cannot again argue that only Irish data protection law would be applicable. Anyone who stands on our pitch also has to play our game,” said Johannes Caspar, Hamburg's commissioner for data protection.