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Facebook can block folks using pseudonyms in Germany – court

Real-name-only policy is governed by Irish law

By Richard Chirgwin, 4 Mar 2016

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 in Germany. Facebook's European HQ is based in Dublin, Ireland, and therefore the biz is overseen by Irish laws, the Hamburg court said.

That decision comes hard on the heels of Germany's data protection authority launching an investigation into whether Facebook's conditions of use ride roughshod over data protection safeguards.

The pseudonyms row began last July, when the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection Johannes Caspar ruled that the policy making real names on profiles mandatory runs against Germany's hardline laws.

A user had taken her case to the authority when Zuck's ad network blocked her account because she used a pseudonym. It then demanded proof of identity to unlock the account, and without her permission, switched the name on her page to her real name when she provided it.

It's only a preliminary ruling so far, but the decision means Facebook doesn't have to obey the Data Protection Commissioner's instructions for now.

The commission can appeal, but according to Bloomberg, no announcement has been made yet.

The court said that the laws that apply are those of “the European Union member state that is most closely related to the data processing at stake” – and in the case of the real names policy, that's Ireland. ®

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