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Facebook’s Irish headquarters save it from German data law

Facebook users in Germany concerned with online privacy face a blow – a regional court in Schleswig-Holstein has upheld the social network's policy against the use of pseudonyms.


In December last year, the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ULD) in Schleswig-Holstein took a legal case against Facebook's policy of requiring users to sign-up using their real names. Now, the court has ruled that German data protection laws are not applicable as Facebook's headquarters in Europe are in Ireland – in other words, Irish data protection laws apply for Facebook users in Germany too.

The ULD plans on appealing the ruling and has two weeks to do so.

In the December claim, the ULD argued it is reasonable to use pseudonyms on Facebook: "The real name obligation does neither prevent abuse of the service for insults or provocations nor does it help prevent identity theft. Against this other precautions are necessary."

Privacy Commissioner and Head of ULD Thilo Weichert went on to state: “It is unacceptable that a US portal like Facebook violates German data protection law unopposed and with no prospect of an end. The aim of the orders of ULD is to finally bring about a legal clarification of who is responsible for Facebook and to what this company is bound to. Actually, this should be in the interest of the company, too.”

Facebook – according to the ULD's summary of the case – argued that its "real name culture" actually furthers trust and security and that Irish data laws, with which it fully complies, are in line with higher-ranking European law.

Image credit: Flickr user john|tyler

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