Germany Squares Off With Facebook Over “Real Name” Policy


The Hamburg Data Protection Authority yesterday ruled that Facebook cannot enforce its “real name” policy, which requires users to give over their legal birth names rather than the individual’s chosen name.

Related: Mark Zuckerberg Says Facebook’s “Real Name” Policy Should Work For Trans People

Citing a violation of privacy, the organization has brought up numerous instances of Facebook users with pseudonyms being locked out of the site until the owner can prove their identity.

Johannes Caspar, the Hamburg Commissioner For Data Protection and Freedom of Information, articulated the group’s stance against the policy.

As in many other complaints against Facebook, this case demonstrates that the network wants to enforce the so-called real names policy with no regard to national legislation.

The unauthorized modification of the pseudonym… blatantly violated the right to informational self-determination and constitutes a deliberate infringement of the Data Protection Act.

Facebook has economic activity in Gemany with its branch in Hamburg. So: if you like our game, you must play by our rules.”


Johannes Caspar

The policy has come under fire recently stateside as well, as many within the trans community feel it oppresses their right to use the name that corresponds with their gender identity.

Just last month, trans advocates were taking to social media to ask the LGBT community and LGBT allies to boycott Facebook by “logging off” or using an app to color profile pictures with the trans pride flag.

Just a few weeks back, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg maintained that his company would continue with the policy, but made sure to ensure trans people that their identity would be protected.

 there is some confusion about what our policy actually is. Real name does not mean your legal name. Your real name is whatever you go by and what your friends call you.

If your friends all call you by a nickname and you want to use that name on Facebook, you should be able to do that.

In this way, we should be able to support everyone using their own real names, including everyone in the transgender community.

Inside The F8 Facebook Developers Conference

Mark Zuckerberg

In a statement, a Facebook spokesperson said: “We’re disappointed Facebook’s authentic name policy is being revisited, since German courts have reviewed it on multiple occasions and regulators have determined it fully complies with applicable European data protection law. The use of authentic names on Facebook protects people’s privacy and safety by ensuring people know who they’re sharing and connecting with.”