Germany Clashes with Facebook Over Pseudonym Ban

Germany takes on Facebook to uphold German Telemedia Act.

Jan. 8, 2013— -- The German state of Schleswig-Holstein has sent a letter to Facebook's Palo Alto, Calif. headquarters and its Dublin, Ireland offices, threatening to fine the social media giant $26,150 for not allowing users to mainatain accounts under a pseudonym.

Section 13, part 6 of the German Telemedia Act states that service providers must "enable the use of telemedia and partment for them to occur anonymously or via a pseudonym" when reasonable in order to ensure freedom of expression online.

According to The Guardian, Schleswig-Holstein data protection commissioner Thilo Weichert writes to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, that it is "unacceptable that a U.S. portal like Facebook violates German data protection law, unopposed and with no prospect of an end."

This is not the first time that Germanty has clashed with Facebook's policies. In 2011, Germany's Independent Center for Privacy Protection banned local groups from maintaing Facebook fan pages or from using Facebook's "like" feature, which it said allowed the site to monitor its users' activities. That same year, the city of Hamburg ruled that the social media site's facial recognition feature violated the country's privacy laws.

Yesterday, a spokesperson for Facebook responded to the German state's orders, noting that "[i]t is the role of individual services to determine their own policies about anonymity within the governing law for Facebook Ireland, European data protection and Irish law. We believe the orders are without merit, a waste of German taxpayers' money and we will fight it vigorously."