Facebook wins German case on pseudonym ban

Posted By Kristen Butler, UPI.com   |   Feb. 15, 2013 at 1:36 PM   |   0 comments

Feb. 15 (UPI) -- The Administrative Court for Schleswig-Holstein found in favor of Facebook to overrule an order requiring Facebook to let German members use pseudonyms.

"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."

In December, the Unabhaengiges Landeszentrum fuer Datenschutz (ULD) data protection agency said that German law protects "the fundamental right to freedom of expression on the Internet." German citizens should be able to use Facebook "largely unnoticed and without fear of unpleasant consequences," the ULD said.

"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."

Facebook argues that Irish data protection officials handle privacy issues in Europe because of the social network's presence there. The Schleswig-Holstein court agreed, finding that "Irish data protection law applies" because local facilities and existing staff in Ireland fill the requirements of an office.

According to Facebook's name policy, "Facebook is a community where people use their real identities. We require everyone to provide their real names, so you always know who you're connecting with." Using real names means people know who they're connecting with, which "helps keep our community safe," Facebook said.

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