Facebook can retain real name policy, German court rules

Facebook has won a court challenge against its real name policy in Germany, according to an AP report. An administrative court in Germany granted the social networking giant’s request for "suspensive effect" against a ruling that Facebook’s real name policy was in violation of German and European Law. The ruling was made by the commissioner of Schleswig-Holstein’s Data Protection.

According to the Court’s ruling, German data protection laws are not applicable since Facebook’s European headquarters are stationed in Ireland, effectively making the less stringent Irish data protection laws applicable.

Facebook can keep its real name policy (Image credits: Getty Images)

Facebook can keep its real name policy (Image credits: Getty Images)


In December it was announced that Facebook had refused to allow the use of aliases on its services, as is typically required by the German Telemedia Act, according to Thilo Weichert, Privacy Commissioner and head of the Data Protection Commissioner office, ULD ((Unabhaengiges Landeszentrum fuer Datenschutz). "This decree is binding," Weichert had said.

He went on to say that it is unacceptable that a US-based portal like Facebook is violating German data protection law. Weichert said that the social networking giant must comply with the data protection law to protect user privacy. The ULD had said that it had received complaints about Facebook’s policy by German citizens. It said that its aim was to extract a clarification of Facebook’s legal position with regards to European data protection law and that it intended to pursue a "regular lawsuit" against the social networking company.

It was expected that if this matter escalated, it would set a precedent that would allow other countries or even users to speak out against the social network's real name policy, and could eventually result in the company discarding its real name policy.

In response, a Facebook spokesperson had said, "We believe the orders are without merit, a waste of German taxpayers' money and we will fight it vigorously." Facebook stated that its real name policy complies with European data protection principles and Irish law.

The ULD today in its press release entitled "Administrative Court of Schleswig granted Facebook free ride" said that it planned to appeal the court’s decision before the Schleswig-Holstein Higher Administrative Court. Weichert described the court’s ruling in favour of Facebook as “more than amazing” and “contradictory”. The ULD will now have two weeks to appeal the court’s ruling.

In an emailed statement to TechCrunch,  a Facebook spokesperson said, “We are pleased with the decision of the Administrative Court of Appeals of Schleswig-Holstein. We believe this is a step into the right direction. 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.


With inputs from AP

Published Date: Feb 16, 2013 10:41 am | Updated Date: Feb 16, 2013 10:41 am