German State Turns Up Heat Vs. Facebook On Real Names Issue

By David Cohen 

The data-protection commissioner for the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, Thilo Weichert, took his campaign against Facebook’s insistence that users provide their real names up a notch, threatening to fine the social network £16,000 ($20,877) if it refuses to abolish that policy.

The Guardian reported that Weichert sent letters to Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., and Facebook Ireland headquarters in Dublin to that effect, and he said in a statement:

It is unacceptable that a U.S. portal like Facebook violates German data-protection law, unopposed and with no prospect of an end.

Weichert told The Guardian Facebook filed for legal protection at the administrative court in Schleswig-Holstein, but the social network has not changed its position, and a Facebook spokesman told the newspaper the charges by the agency, ULD Schleswig-Holstein, were “without merit” and a “waste of German taxpayers’ money,” and the company would fight “vigorously.”

Jörg Hladjk, a lawyer specializing in data protection at Hunton & Williams in Brussels, told The Guardian:

I think it is not very likely that Facebook will change its business model for one country, or even just one region in Germany. Just from a business perspective, this does not make a lot of sense.

Readers: Should Facebook users be required to provide their actual names?