Facebook wins case to ensure Europeans use real names on social network

15 Feb 2013

A German court has ruled in Facebook’s favour in a case where a data commissioner in Schleswig-Holstein wanted Facebook to allow the use of fake names. Facebook argued that it did not have to adhere to Germany privacy laws because personal data on the social network is handled by its international operations in Ireland and therefore falls under the auspices of the Data Protection Commissioner of Ireland.

The decision yesterday by the Administrative Court of the State of Schleswig-Holstein means Facebook will be able to continue to insist that people who use the social network use their real names rather than hiding behind aliases.

The decision is expected to be appealed by the state data protection organisation in Schleswig-Holstein, which argues that the ban on fake names breaches German privacy laws designed to protect free speech online.

Facebook, on the other hand, believes that insisting on real names protects users.

The court decided that because personal data is handled by Facebook’s international operations in Dublin rather than Germany, only Irish data protection laws apply.

In December, the Schleswig-Holstein state data protection commission ordered Facebook to stop enforcing its real name policy because it violated German laws that allowed people to use pseudonyms online and threatened the social network with a €20,000 fine.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years