German Privacy Regulator Orders Facebook to Stop Banning Use of Nicknames

facebook-privacy3The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ULD) Schleswig-Holstein in Germany has ordered Facebook to lift its ban on pseudonyms and nicknames on its site in order to accord with the German Telemedia Act. The group’s privacy commissioner, Thilo Weichert, said that the decree issued by the group on Friday is legally binding. The decree was issued to both Facebook USA and Facebook Ireland, the site’s European headquarters. Weichert also said that a U.S.-based organization should not get to dictate Germany privacy laws nor decide which ones it can and can’t violate.

The decree was only issued on behalf of users in Schleswig-Holstein, a German state, Weichert said that the order could soon spread throughout the country. “We informed our colleagues and most of the supervising authorities agree with us,” he said. He also said that the Schleswig-Holstein decree is being used as a pilot case to test how Facebook responds and what results are achieved before other states file similar complaints.

Facebook responded to the decree, saying that they will fight it in court. They also said that their “real name” policy complies with European data protection policies. Facebook has been increasingly challenged in Europe over its data policies and privacy issues, from its use of facial recognition technology to targeted advertising. Facebook continues to fight these allegations in court, though few cases have reached a resolution. It will be interesting to see if they lead to any lasting changes in how Facebook handles its business in Europe going forward.

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