February 15, 2013
Facebook Victory In Germany Lets Social Network Continue Using Real Names
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Facebook´s business model thrives on the information in gathers from its users, but this information is only beneficial when it´s accurate. As such, Facebook insists that its users only use their real name when using the site. This little policy has earned them the scorn of a German privacy watchdog group, which took Facebook to court over claims that they were violating German law which allows users the right to surf the web anonymously.Today, a German court has ruled that Facebook is allowed to insist its users go by their real names on the site, a decision which the watchdog group plans to appeal.
According to a court in the state of Schleswig-Holstein, Facebook cannot be charged with breaking German law, as their European operations are all conducted out of Ireland. As such, the court has ruled that Facebook is bound only to Irish rules.
“The regulator wrongfully based its order on German data protection law,” said the judges in their ruling, according to Bloomberg. “Irish data protection law exclusively applies.” The Palo Alto-based social network operates their American and Canadian operations from California but keeps their main European offices in Ireland.
Had Facebook lost this court case, they would have also been forced to pay a $27,000 fine if they did not comply with the orders brought forth by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ULD). Thilo Weichart, privacy commissioner and head of the ULD, has said in a statement that the court is now contradicting itself with this ruling. "The decisions are more than amazing," said Weichart, according to PC World.
Weichart says that the Irish jurisdiction argument is moot, as all personal data is processed in the US, therefore making their Irish ties irrelevant as well. Weichart is worried that this ruling could lead to a precedent by which IT companies set up operations in countries with less stringent privacy restrictions in order to avoid accountability. This, claims the ULD, was not the intention of the European Union regulation.
The ULD now plans to file for an appeal within the next two weeks. Upon doing so, the ULD expects to carry on this case for the next several months or, potentially, years.
Facebook is understandably pleased with this decision, which allows them to insist on taking their users´ real names. "We are pleased with the decision of the Administrative Court of Schleswig-Holstein. We believe this is a step into the right direction," said Facebook in an email 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."
Furthermore, Facebook claims that their Irish headquarters abide not only by local law but the laws of the European Union and are in line with data protection laws as well.