Facebook wins fake-name court battle against German privacy group

Facebook German law
Ich bin ein Berliner, for real

There's no hiding behind a fake name on Facebook for anyone who can honestly say "Ich bin ein Berliner" (I am a Berliner).

The social networking site can legally continue to require users in Germany to register with their real names thanks to its courtroom win against a German privacy watchdog group.

In December, the Schleswig-Holstein data protection body had ordered Facebook to change its real-name policy and allow users the option to use a fictitious name.

The right to use pseudonyms online is enshrined in German law, said the body.

Sweeter than a Berliner (jelly donut)

This reversal is good news for Facebook, which is just one of many tech companies to have run-ins with strict German privacy laws.

"We are pleased with the decision of the Administrative Court of Appeals of Schleswig-Holstein," a Facebook spokesperson told TechRadar. "We believe this is a step in 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."

Previously, Facebook saw its auto-facial recognition feature declared illegal in Germany.

With the luck of the Irish

Facebook's mention of Irish law is no accident. The Associated Press pointed out that the company's European headquarters is in Ireland.

This means that the Facebook is subject to Ireland's less stringent privacy laws and is outside of the Schleswig court's jurisdiction.

Schleswig-Holstein state's data protection body said that it will appeal the decision, but for now, real names remain a Facebook requirement in Deutschland.

Via Associated Press

Matt Swider