Good news for every Little Miss Hot Mess and Jemmaroid von Laalaa out there: a German privacy watchdog has ordered Facebook to allow users to take out accounts under pseudonyms.
According to Bloomberg News, Johannes Caspar, Hamburg’s data regulator, said in an emailed statement that Facebook may not unilaterally change such accounts to the real names of users and may not block them.
Germany has been after Facebook for years when it comes to privacy issues.
As far back as 2010, Caspar expressed concern that the site was storing the data of third parties who hadn’t signed up to Facebook, but whose details had been added to the site by friends, for marketing purposes.
That same year, German consumer protection groups urged Facebook to do a U-turn on privacy and adopt a policy of asking users to opt-in every time it wanted to pass personal information to other firms, as opposed to an opt-out policy.
They even suggested that Facebook users should quit the site unless it was prepared to do more about protecting members’ privacy – an admonition that’s echoed down through the years, with European Commission attorney Bernhard Schima in March of this year advising EU citizens to close their Facebook accounts entirely if they want to keep their private information away from the prying eyes of US security services.
Facebook has argued that the Irish regulator has jurisdiction over its compliance with EU privacy law.
But Caspar said that if Facebook wants to play in Germany, it has to do so in accordance with the country’s laws:
Anyone who stands on our pitch also has to play our game. The arbitrary change of the user name blatantly violates [privacy rights].
Facebook said in a statement that it was disappointed that its name policy is being revisited even after it won disputes over the issue:
The use of authentic names on Facebook protects people’s privacy and safety by ensuring people know who they’re sharing and connecting with.
Bloomberg News reports that the order from Caspar, which came out on Tuesday, is based on a complaint by a user who’d sought to prevent her private Facebook account from being used by people contacting her about business.
The news outlet didn’t mention names, but a recent situation with a pseudonym-using Facebook user came to light when Facebook locked out a woman who was using the pseudonym “Jemmaroid von Laalaa.”
She was so upset over the loss of her account, along with its messages and photos, that she changed her name to her pseudonym in an effort to get her account back.
Even that hadn’t worked as of a few weeks ago – Facebook still hadn’t given her back her account.
Between wrangling with drag queens and others in the LGBT (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender) community over their adopted names and telling Native Americans that their names are fake, Facebook just can’t seem to get this name thing right.
For the sake of Ms. von Laalaa and all the other pseudonym-using and/or non-conventionally-named-as-far-as-Caucasians-are-concerned goes, it would be wonderful for Facebook to take Caspar’s injunction to heart and simply stop telling users what a “real” name is, what a “fake” name is, or whether or not they should be allowed to call themselves whatever strikes them as appropriate, or identity preserving.
It seems to be high time for Facebook to simply quit the name game.
Image of Facebook courtesy of 360b / Shutterstock.
24 comments on “Facebook ordered to allow pseudonyms by privacy watchdog”
I had an account deleted without warning by Facebook a few years ago because they said my name was fake. I was in fact using my real name alongside a business name for my photography but my real name was clearly on there. No amount of arguing with them would get me my page back. I lost so much info I had stored there such as contacts and so on that you can’t (or at least couldn’t then) back up. I also had the task of trying to find and re-add them all on a new account. Facebook are a joke most of the time.
Yahoo, Google, facebook, all emails and all social media REJECTS ANYONE WHO DO NOT USE THEIR REAL NAMES all because they make tons of money by selling profile info etc to third party. They want to have it all, we are suckers to fall for it.
I have many yahoo email accounts, none of which have my real name.
Their support department is blind to porn, filth and spammers but goes after people for using a fake name. I personally could care less about dropping the hammer on the fake names because too many idiots hide behind them in doing the aforementioned garbage. Maybe FB just needs to cut off that country and let the people in it go after the government official who believes being able to use fake names and hide behind them is good for anyone.
This from a person named “No Name Bill”…….
What is the real reason behind FBs out of touch account name policy? More ad sales or perhaps pressure from the NSA (so they can map the world and their pals)? How are FB handling Arabic names, with their many different spellings.
Are FB happy to keep saying to victims of crime and abuse ‘we want your tormentors to keep finding you!”.
Don’t be evil, says Google. FB should grow up and try listening to their customers.
FB should grow up and try listening to their customers.
Facebook _IS_ listening to its customers. The problem is that Facebook’s customers are the people paying for advertising space and not the users who are handing over their private information without a second thought.
And without users, who would its customers be? You’re either being obtuse or ignoring the obvious fact that if we didn’t use them, they’d collapse, so it’d be prudent of them to give in to us. I for one got kicked off and I’m not going back till they let me use my name.
Also PS – which site did you give *your* personal information to in order to sign in and write that comment? Facebook, Twitter? I smell hypocrisy 🙂
You’re either being obtuse or ignoring the obvious
I’m recognizing that their business model does not align with my best interests and acting accordingly.
which site did you give *your* personal information to in order to sign in and write that comment? Facebook, Twitter? I smell hypocrisy 🙂
I provided my email address to Sophos in order to post the comment. I pay a domain registrar for my domain and I pay a mail provider for the email address and mailbox in that domain. I don’t have any accounts on Facebook, Twitter, or any other service generally recognized as a social networking site. There’s no hypocrisy involved on that count. I recognize that when a site lets me use their services for free that I transition from being a customer to being a product that they get to sell to the highest bidder if they choose to do so.
You don’t need to use a Facebook/Twitter/whatever login to post a comment here. Many of the commenters aren’t even on social media sites; I am one of those myself. All Naked Security asks for is an email address – which they do not share – and a name, which can be whatever you choose.
If you want to, you can just put in [blank] as your name and your email address.
(A blank name is automatically converted to “Anonymous”. We can’t tell whether you actually typed in “Anonymous” or left it blank. The conmputer scientist in me says this is a bug 🙂
Ha ha, Paul, you still up mate? (6 minutes before my comment) I thought your time zone was pretty far off us across the pond. (5:45 PM here)
It’s nice to see an old-fashioned writer/moderator (like myself) patrolling the halls after business hours, lol…
Good article Lisa!
It’s Sysadmin day already (where I am).
Heres an idea…stop using Facebook!
Well done, you win “comment that took the fewest brain cells and the most fatuousness”.
Silly people, free means You Don’t Own It. Register a domain, put your content up, link to it. The city bus (facebook) is no place to expect your sticky note to stay for ever. Want data storage with quality of service, you must pay for it.
Lisa, Paul, I have a question for you guys… If FB bows to Germany’s demands, wouldn’t they fight giving that right to citizens of other countries?
In other words Yanks like me would be ignored when we demand the same rights?
Could get interesting, I feel like a social media tirade is coming on, lol…
dont jump on the hate on the caucasian train, facebook is not going after non european names as much because they dont employ as many non english speakers and cannot tell if a spanish or arabic etc name is real most of the time per se, so european sounding names or english is actually more predjudiced against
let’s all go back to myspace. It’s actually looking really good these days, and i hope everyone starts jumping ship (again)
I also woke to find myself logged out with the message saying my name was fake and to prove my real name I made I sent them all my IDs with my name and explained to them the only photo ID I had was on an old drivers lisence with my original birth name they wanted this. I explained I had not used my birth name in 20 years for reasons of domestic voilence and endagerment and I only usend my real name now. They then changed my facebook to my birth name and it was up for a month for anone to search and conect it with me and my very pblic business I begged them to take it down and they would not. I had to get a credit check and a new birth certificate and new drivers lisence before they would change it back to my real name. All this time I lived in fear of being found by an X criminal husband from my youth. Thank you for taking them on
All this, and they still haven’t taken down the 5 year old accounts my friends and I made for historical figures and never updated…
Well, here we are one year later from this story and they have continued to take down several pages within the GLBTQIA community for performers and people generally just trying to keep their name out of the spotlight. I hate the this is a contunuing issue and I wish someone would really investigate this.