Facebook comes in for a lot of criticism, but one thing that managed to rub a lot of people up the wrong way is its real names policy. For some time the social network has required its users to reveal their real name rather than allowing for the adoption of pseudonyms. This has upset many, including musicians and the drag community.
Now a German watchdog has told Facebook that its ban on fake names is not permitted. The Hamburg Data Protection Authority said that the social network could not force users to replace pseudonyms with real names, nor could it ask to see official identification.
The watchdog's order follows a complaint from a German woman who had her Facebook account closed because she used a fake name. She had opted to use a pseudonym to avoid unwanted contact from business associates, but Facebook demanded to see ID and changed her username accordingly. Hamburg Data Protection Authority said this and similar cases were privacy violations.
This is just the latest in a series of European attacks on Facebook. Authorities from Germany, Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, and France are currently all working together to investigate Facebook's privacy policies.
Facebook says that it disagrees with the order, and it is likely that the company will appeal. As reported by Reuters, as Facebook is headquarter in Ireland, the company believes it only has to comply with Irish data protection laws. European authorities, however, disagree. Johannes Caspar, the Hamburg Commissioner for Data Protection, said "anyone who stands on our pitch also has to play our game".