Germany: Facebook banned from enforcing its real name policy in country

Facebook may not stop users in Germany creating accounts under false names, a Hamburg privacy watchdog has said. The Hamburg data protection authority said the social network could not change people's chosen usernames or ask them to provide any official ID. The ruling came after Facebook blocked an account set up by a woman using a pseudonym and changed it to her name. 

The company's real-name policy has been the subject of recent protests from demonstrators, including drag queens, Native Americans and domestic violence victims who believe anonymity is crucial to their personal safety. Some drag queens want to use their stage names on the site, while Native Americans' names often incorporate animals, natural features or other elements that can be wrongly identified as pseudonyms.

In October 2014, Facebook clarified its real-name policy, saying users would have to "use the authentic name they use in real life". But the company has been slow to change its rules. The Hamburg watchdog, which regulates the social network in Germany, said making users sign up under their real names violated an individual's privacy rights. Read More