Facebook Real Name Policy Exposes Domestic Violence Survivors

Facebook privacy issuesFacebook has taken heat in recent months for its “real name” policy that requires users to register under an “authentic” alias found on official identification. The rule received bad press for punishing Native Americans and drag performers, but there’s another group that has unfortunately suffered: domestic violence victims.

According to an article in The Daily Beast, many women use Facebook under a different name to escape from former abusive partners. These women still want to use Facebook to maintain their social lives, but when Facebook forces them to use their real names, it can potentially put them and their families in danger.

“It’s frustrating how you can be tagged and how your comments can be public if a friend has lesser privacy settings,” said one woman who quit Facebook. “I had a friend tag me once where we ate—I was terrified.”

While Facebook has its policy in part to prevent anonymous harassment and abuse on the site, some also believe that there is a financial incentive for the site to register users with their real names.

“They have made claims about how the names policy prevents abuse, but have presented no actual evidence,” he said. “The only two actual plausible explanations I have found are 1) They have had the policy for years and don’t want to put the energy into revamping it, or 2) They want to be able to match names to other data sets so they can sell their data to brokers.”

Facebook has improved the overall experience of users trying to prove their identities on the site, but it still has a long way to go when it comes to working with users’ individual privacy needs.