German users can use fake names on Facebook, and the company is not allowed to intervene, said the latest ruling issued by a privacy watchdog. This marks a step back for the American company’s efforts in Europe.
The Hamburg data protection authority, tasked with overseeing Facebook’s operations in Germany, said that the company is not allowed to change usernames to real names or demand official identification from users.
The case was taken up after a woman filed a complaint to the Hamburg watchdog, stating that Facebook blocked her account because she used a fake name, demanded her personal ID and then proceeded to change the account to her real name.
The watchdog said that the reason the woman wanted to use a fake name was to avoid business-related contacts reaching out.
The ruling concluded that forcing people to use their real names breached the user’s online privacy rights.
Facebook was upset with the decision. “The use of authentic names on Facebook protects people’s privacy and safety by ensuring people know who they’re sharing and connecting with,” Reuters quoted a spokesperson for the company as saying.