back to article Facebook can block folks using pseudonyms in Germany – court

Facebook has landed a win in Germany: the Hamburg Administrative Court says the website's real-names-only policy is governed by the laws of Ireland – and not Germany. That means Facebook's policy does not fall under German privacy laws, and thus the social network doesn't have to change a thing despite concerns over the policy …

Anonymous Coward

I'm amazed at how easily the masses accepted Facebook's advertiser friendly real name policy. Before that people simply knew not to namefag on the internet.

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I don't know how they enforce this, other than if you're dobbed in by some weasel, but I've never had a problem registering Facebook accounts with pseudonyms. The one thing you can guarantee if you use your real-world name is that you'll bitterly regret it some day.

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Alert

Not quite...

Actually, the masses are still using pseudonyms on Facebook, we're just more clever choosing our (fake) names. They look fairly legit, instead of being something like R. Soles or Seymour Butts.

In my case, using a pseudonym is pretty much required, because my real name would end up being a self-doxxing case: my surname's so rare, you'd find me real fast using my city's phonebook. Being easily picked out in a city that has a 20+ million population is a very bad thing.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not quite...

And what's so funny about that?

Regards

Mr S. Butts

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Anonymous Coward

I had a Pseudonym for 5 years (no way it could be mistaken as a real name didn't even attempt to be) and I then made the "mistake" of commenting on a public forum and someone didn't like my post so they reported my account. had the choice provide ID or loose the account.

Now have 2 Pseudonym accounts 1 for friends and 1 throw away account to post on public forums.

Tried recreating my old username but its now blocked. :-(

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Always had beef with Facebook's real name policy, especially when they were encouraging people to dob in others for not using their real names.

When Blizzard announced plans to introduce real names on their forums - for players and staff - there was a huge backlash, and they backed down.

There are many good reasons for people to want to not use their given name for sites like Facebook. Examples include: Abuse and stalking victims wanting to keep in touch with their support network without their perp finding them, trans people who haven't yet legally changed their name to the one they currently go by, professionals who go by a different name to their "real name" as part of their brand (drag queens, actors, authors etc.)...

They let you use variations on your real name (like short versions of different language versions), but such things aren't a solution for some who have a specific need to not use anything remotely resembling their real name when using Facebook.

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Meh

Blizzard

The big difference is that Blizzard's users are also customers, and their Real ID dick move would end up costing them real money; having a huge backlash would probably translate in thousands of cancelled WoW subscriptions. They weren't going to lose revenue on that, so they backtracked.

Facebook, however, doesn't get its revenue from their users, but from advertisers, and those are the ones that push for real names. The only way Facebook would backtrack on this stupid policy would be for users to deactivate their FB profiles en masse, and in sufficient numbers for advertisers to notice and take action. But I doubt that will ever happen.

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Doxing

without her permission, switched the name on her page to her real name

Classy company.

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Faecebook can block folks using pseudonyms in Germany.

That's fine by me because I can, and do, block Faecebook whatever country I am in.

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Big Brother

irish Data Commissioner

So the Germans need to complain to irish Data Commissioner. Eventually, the ECJ or EU will tell the Irish Commissioner to do something. Sometimes though they do react. Sky Ireland automatically opted everyone into a Marketing for 3rd parties and the IDC protested, Sky backed down.

But Sky Ireland only sells in Ireland, certainly back then only INSTALL VAT went to Ireland, all subscription VAT went to UK.

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Re: irish Data Commissioner

Strike me that this decision gets appealed and overturned. The logic is not much different than the EU wanting it's privacy rules followed by US businesses, except the US is clearly an external entity to the EU while Ireland is clearly internal to the EU.

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Its a difficult case really, because where is the point of service? is it germany? where the user uses the product, or is it Ireland where its hosted?

And if Facebook fails to follow Germany's rules, why doesn't Germany block facebook.

They would block it for copyright infringement, or if it hosted Nazi propaganda etc...

I'm torn between whome I want to win, right now I am leaning on the side of the Germans, since any other decision would be telling any site that breaks local laws to just host abroad and nothing will happen...

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Anonymous Coward

"since any other decision would be telling any site that breaks local laws to just host abroad and nothing will happen..."

Fair point, but the user knew the real names policy - it's pretty clear - yet breached it. Perhaps they should have just scrubbed her account completely instead, would have been easier ...

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"telling any site that breaks local laws to just host abroad and nothing will happen"

Umm, that sounds perfectly reasonable to me. If some guy in the Middle East starts spouting "all Westerners should be exterminated" then my options are to tolerate it or to desist from connecting to that site. Contrary to what some (usually quite lowly) courts occasionally decide, I don't have the option of enforcing my local laws in a foreign country.

It's not a new problem. It pre-dates the internet by centuries and has been satisfactorily solved for almost as long. I find it extraordinary that otherwise intelligent people seem to think it is some new, unsolved, internet-specific issue.

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"Fair point, but the user knew the real names policy - it's pretty clear - yet breached it. Perhaps they should have just scrubbed her account completely instead, would have been easier ..."

Facebook's ToS do not take precedence over the law. This was a court case about whose laws they don't take precedence over.

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WTF?

It's not mandatory is it?

Just

Don't

Use

It

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Re: It's not mandatory is it?

Hard call. More and more of the commenting sections on the internet are demanding real names. At some point it does become mandatory in the sense that you must comply if you want to have a social presence. Anonymity has its place. There are also times it should be pierced. In the past we've tended to prefer to allow anonymity except where it was explicitly necessary to be public and when it was time to pierce anonymity, you went to court.

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Facepalm

It's worse than that

They wouldn't even let me use my *real* name. For some reason, they seemed to think that Santa might be fake!

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It's even worse than that ...

If this EU privacy ruling applies to Germany/Ireland and Facebook/A.N.Other then it will apply to all EU countries and citizens. That really is worrying.

A company sets up in the country with loosest privacy laws, sells its product throughout Europe then quite legally does whatever it can with the collected data under Slovakian/Slovenian/Cypriot/Luxemburger/EPO/whatever privacy rules with absolutely no regard for the laws of the user's state where the data was collected ... it makes Safe Harbour look like a cuddly duvet of protection ...

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This is why I don't have Faecesbook

I registered under my real name and they decided it was fake and demanded ID. Fuck that noise.

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Re: This is why I don't have Faecesbook

If they have validated identities then their snoop data is more valuable. Otherwise they wouldn't be doing this.

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So which Irish law requires users to disclose their real name?

IANAL, but I thought that most legal contracts / disclaimers you agree to are only valid if the law of the jurisdiction supports those rights / limitations being restricted by contract.

If Facebook say you must use your real name, and you flout that requirement, they can't prosecute you for it unless a law explicitly allows them to enforce this requirement. The most they can do is cancel your account, since they are under no legal obligation to provide you with an account.

So is there actually a law in Ireland which means they can demand you use your real name for an account? If there is, what is your real name according to the law, is it your LEGAL FICTION?

Does everyone with a middle name on their birth certificate who doesn't include it on their Facebook account flout this law?

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Re: So which Irish law requires users to disclose their real name?

"Does everyone with a middle name on their birth certificate who doesn't include it on their Facebook account flout this law?"

In the UK, there is no such thing as a real name. Long-standing practice is that you can call yourself whatever you like as long as it isn't for fraudulent purposes. It follows that anything written on your birth certificate is purely advisory (since *you* certainly didn't choose it).

Since Ireland inherited much of its law from the UK, it may well be that there is no such notion as "real name" in Irish law.

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Re: So which Irish law requires users to disclose their real name?

All Facebook is doing is saying "if you want to use our service, you must use your real name". I don't get why people think the policy of a company is open to legal challenge. Should I challenge the legality of a mortgage company running a credit check on me before extending a loan? That's a condition of doing business with them, if I don't like it I don't have to take out a mortgage from them.

If you don't want to provide your real name, either don't use Facebook or provide a fake name and don't get bent out of shape if they catch you and suspend your account (they probably won't catch you, over 5% of my Facebook friends are not using their actual first/last name - most are female using first/middle name instead)

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Re: So which Irish law requires users to disclose their real name?

"All Facebook is doing is saying "if you want to use our service, you must use your real name". I don't get why people think the policy of a company is open to legal challenge. Should I challenge the legality of a mortgage company running a credit check on me before extending a loan? That's a condition of doing business with them, if I don't like it I don't have to take out a mortgage from them."

The question is, does Facebook have the legal authority to deny its service to people because they respect their privacy? In Germany the answer would be 'no', in Ireland apparently 'yes'.

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Re: So which Irish law requires users to disclose their real name?

If Facebook can't require full names, I guess I can go to any bank in Germany and open an account as Mickey Mouse, and even take out a mortgage in his name? If not, why the difference in how they're treated?

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Re: why the difference in how they're treated?

Oh let me guess - because it involves real property and real money?

Or because your bank is not going to post/share your details pretty much publicly with stalkers, ex's, and friends-of-friends you would not wish to ever meet again?

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Re: So which Irish law requires users to disclose their real name?

"If Facebook can't require full names, I guess I can go to any bank in Germany and open an account as Mickey Mouse, and even take out a mortgage in his name? If not, why the difference in how they're treated?"

Oh come on, don't be so obtuse. The law will say something like "you can't refuse service for someone not giving you more personal information than required for the service". It's not rocket science.

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Paris Hilton

Re: So which Irish law requires users to disclose their real name?

No one verifies the content of what gets posted and fecebook is worried about /names/? Zuckerworld is a strange place.

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Vic

Re: So which Irish law requires users to disclose their real name?

I don't get why people think the policy of a company is open to legal challenge

Because if the law says you're not allowed to enact a policy, you're not allowed to. That's what this case was about - whether or not the law allows for Facebook's policy. The preliminary ruling is that it does.

Vic.

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Pint

Censorship and the Great Firewall

In lands where the occupants (often misguidedly) consider themselve both free and civilised they are quite happy for their free world web sites to be viewed in countries where they are illegal.

For instance the web site may be dedicated to gay people. In some parts of the world being gay is a crime.

There is great outcry if there is any attempt to block access. Human rights are often quoted.

Here we have two sites in Europe where the laws are different.

Judging by the former example, we should all be suporting the laws in the country where the web site is hosted. If you are not comfortable with the laws in the country hosting the web site then close your account. Look for a web site in your home country. Or accept the rules of the hosting country.

Seems to me that the arguments don't follow logic or the law; same arguments used in opposite directions depending which outcome you favour.

We should all obey the law. Except that one, of course. It's obviously silly.

Or go with the USA approach. One of our people used you web site so our laws apply.

Incoming!!

Beer because it is Friday and I just cashed a load of tokens at Tesco and got 8 big bottles of Leffe for £1.

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Re: Censorship and the Great Firewall

It seems rather murky at best just like the tax thing they and other are running into. FB is US, the servers for Germany apparently are in Ireland. Three countries' laws... who's applies? I think most of us would agree to the local country where the services are used. But...BS politics and chest thumping take precedence.

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This is a bit of a surprise given the ECJ's Weltimmo* -decision, which would seem to say that even a minimal legal presence in a EU member country means that a company is subject to the data protection law / DPA of that member country.

I suppose Facebook might have been careful not to have any formal legal presence in Germany, in which case (by the Weltimmo decision) the German DPA should request the Irish one to act (and, if not happy with the result, they'd probably need to take the Irish DPA to the ECJ, likely by the way of Irish courts as happened in the Safe Harbour case).

* http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2015-10/cp150111en.pdf

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Big Brother

As we go deeper down the rabbit hole...

And as I try to come to terms with the clusterfuck we all now find ourselves in, the depth of it, the implications of it, I can't help but consistently come across one salient point:

<deep gruff voice>

THEY ALL WANT IT, WAHEY!

</deep gruff voice>

Oh, how they have learned to love their shackles. Nay, demand them! At all personal costs to self.

You really don't have to look very far to see why our great puppet masters hold us in such contempt.

Not only are we weak and timid, we are dumb. And not just dumb either - there's another human trait that is far more dangerous than that, best explained by this maxim:

It is easier to fool somebody with an outrageous lie, than it is to convince someone that they have just been lied to, even slightly, and that they are wrong.

I believe this human trait is sometimes called 'losing face'. People will stab you over it, they'll rip out your hair follicles and shit down your now porous skull. Er, just made the last one up, but you never know.

The reasons for it are legion, but cognitive dissonance plays a big part, along with the average human's ready to snap fragile ego. I post therefore I am. Now, I go on more than anyone else I know on t'internetz, but, and it's a big but, not a 'Seymour Butt', but nonetheless, a but it is, and it is this - the but - BUT, I don't expect anyone reads my drivel. I do it as a form of therapy, plus I enjoy writing words and exploring concepts. I wouldn't class my self as a philospher-poet, more a general fucking nuisance really, especially if you are reading this on a smart phone.

I am not so deluded as to think anyone takes a blind bit of notice of what I say (apart from government spies). There in lies another form of insanity I suppose, but there you have it.

But, yeah, they just can't get enough can they? They bloody love it!

Try even bringing the subject up with someone. You will meet aggression.

"So you don't mind that you are being spied on and being data-raped?"

"No"

"Ok, but how do you feel about the government watching your children naked in their bedrooms?"

"They would never do that, and if they did they would be prosecuted"

"They've already done it, are still doing it, and got away with it and are still getting away with it"

"I don't believe you"

"It's true. All I'm asking is that you acknowledge the extent and gravity of the situation, and at least consider taking some measures to protect yourself, regaining some privacy for you and your family"

"Privacy, wot's dat? Iz dat likez der anonim, anomin, anonomin, an.. an.... YOU MUST BE A PAEDOPHILE!"

They are all dreaming of hitting the big time. Of becoming the next Karcrashian. How their little petals will eventually wither in their souls...

It's not like they can't say they weren't warned.

The government is out of control, criminally insane, corrupt, nefarious, scheming, plotting, self-serving, ruthless and at war with itself. There's even a downside! But they are not the real enemy. Your next door neighbour is. Probably. Family members. Possibly. And this is how it is win/win for our puppet masters. As they polarise us, they turn us against each other. The resentment from us towards their stupidity is countered by their anger at us for telling them they've been duped.

We turn on each other. Divided, we are conquered.

And the more I study it, the more respect and admiration I have for those men in the darkened back rooms, plotting... Bubble Bubble, Oil and Rubble...

They will be our new rulers, and I for one welcome them, yes. Yes, I do. With all my heart. With love even. Because I read 1984 once, now I'm living it - it's my reality, and I know that they will stop at nothing else other than the breaking of the human spirit, and the total ownership of my soul. Anything less is a failure to them. And you are sleepwalking into a nightmare if you think any different. The problem is, most people aren't thinking at all. Bloated on cheap food, wanked into a stupor, almost high on bad drugs, THEY ALL WANT IT - WAHEY. And they are gonna get it, soon. And our overlords will even say that they deserved it.

I'm finding it hard to disagree, try as I might, with that last point.

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is governed by the laws of Ireland?

Fine, but this does not really overrule other countries law, no?

I think the German Administrative court got it a bit too easy, if not wrong, in their verdict.

Thing is Singapore, for one example, is blocking Netflix country wide for not complying with local broadcasting rules and there is no but their HQ is somewhere else.

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