Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Facebook Privacy Your Rights Online

Facebook Ordered To End Its Real Name Policy In Germany 471

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the semi-anonymous-cowards dept.
An anonymous reader writes with a blow to Facebook's policy banning accounts under pseudonyms. From the article: "A German privacy regulator ordered Facebook to stop enforcing its real name policy because it violates a German law that gives users the right to use nicknames online. 'We believe the orders are without merit, a waste of German taxpayers' money and we will fight it vigorously,' a Facebook spokeswoman said in an emailed statement."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Facebook Ordered To End Its Real Name Policy In Germany

Comments Filter:
  • typical (Score:5, Insightful)

    by v1 (525388) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:10AM (#42322149) Homepage Journal

    "We believe the orders are without merit, a waste of German taxpayers' money and we will fight it vigorously"

    Sounds like someone that has a complete lack of respect for the law in general. "We don't agree with the law, we don't want you trying to enforce the law on us, and we're going to fight it even though it's law."

    I do hope the German court decides to haul them out back behind the woodshed and explain how legislature, laws, and law enforcement work.

    • Re:typical (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dexter Herbivore (1322345) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:14AM (#42322175) Journal
      I don't get why Facebook is so against it? Theoretically at least they shouldn't be selling personally identifiable data, just aggregate data, so an individual identification won't affect their product.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:15AM (#42322187)

        It makes the CIA's job much more difficult with nicknames to spy on foreigners.

      • Re:typical (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Mitreya (579078) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <ayertim>> on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:19AM (#42322203)

        I don't get why Facebook is so against it? Theoretically at least they shouldn't be selling personally identifiable data, just aggregate data, so an individual identification won't affect their product.

        Most likely because they want to guarantee unique and real human accounts to advertisers, when selling ads.

        Also, because it makes it easier to connect accounts to other data they may have access to (credit cards on Zinga's servers, etc.).

        I am surprised they don't ask for SSN in US so that they can run credit reports and what not. Enough people are sufficiently stupid to hand it over.

        • Umm no (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @02:59AM (#42322721)

          That's not the reason. The advertising reason is false, the market can adjust for fake accounts etc as long as the number if real users does exist. The reason they oppose the law is that the facebook business model hinges on the dact that it is easy to find acquaintances and be in touch with people without having to remember their nicknames. It's why Facebook beat myspace, Friendster, Orkut, sixdegrees.com etc. the real name policy is what made Facebook a success.

        • Re:typical (Score:4, Interesting)

          by DrXym (126579) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @06:15AM (#42323625)
          I think it's more likely that someone using an alias is more likely to value their privacy and therefore the amount of information that they give to Facebook or permit Facebook to give out.

          Anyway I think it's stupid to force such people to use their real name since there is absolutely no way to verify it is their real name. If I found myself forced to use a "real" name on Facebook I would just pick John Smith, Paul Brown or something so common that it is utterly useless information to either Facebook, or for the people they might hope for me to connect to. I would be literally lost in a sea of John Smiths. Tens of thousands of them, possibly hundreds of thousands of them. Short of them requiring all users to verify their ID with government servers or documentation, there is no way they can prevent it.

          Maybe that's what Germans should do register their protest - register accounts using variations of the top 3 surnames, and boy/girl firstnames and render the service useless. I wonder how long it would be before the next time they logged in Facebook offered a "would you like to use a unique alias?" option.

      • Re:typical (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:38AM (#42322321) Homepage Journal

        I don't get why Facebook is so against it?

        Part of their product is a directory service. They're also trying to wade into commerce. They also have third-party authentication services through OAuth. For those three things, real names are usually required. No doubt hey have other products in the works - some of their new offering might require real names.

        Additionally, anonymous people tend to act like jackasses online, so their costs are bound to be higher.

        I'm curious (really) if German ecommerce sites have to accept nicknames along with credit card numbers (and deal with chargebacks if there's fraud).

        • Re:typical (Score:5, Insightful)

          by sFurbo (1361249) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @02:13AM (#42322527)
          The name on credit cards are not used as account names, so I would guess that it is treated differently. If FB wanted to demand a valid CC, I suppose they could do that, but that would remove a lot of children and, I hope, adults who does not want to hand over their payment credentials to anyone who asks. Also, they might still be required to allow people to use pseudonyms on postings.
        • Re:typical (Score:5, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @03:08AM (#42322747)

          Additionally, anonymous people tend to act like jackasses online, so their costs are bound to be higher.

          Fuck you and your baseless assertions.

        • Re:typical (Score:5, Interesting)

          by wvmarle (1070040) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @03:15AM (#42322775)

          I'm curious (really) if German ecommerce sites have to accept nicknames along with credit card numbers (and deal with chargebacks if there's fraud).

          No need.

          There is no need to even have a login at a site to be able to pay with your credit card. Or you could log in using your (real) name, and use the credit card of another person.

          Those things are no problem for web sites, if only because the name as written on my credit card does not match the name that I normally use (my middle name is included, and the order is different).

        • Re:typical (Score:4, Insightful)

          by bmo (77928) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @04:14AM (#42323031)

          Additionally, anonymous people tend to act like jackasses online

          This has nothing to do with anything. Haven't you seen at the jackassery committed by people under their real names?

          Come on.

          My online identity is my online identity, and as far as Facebook is concerned, I am an owl. This does not change my online behavior and it's not an impediment for me to use Facebook this way. In real life I have the right to call myself whatever I want as long as I'm not trying to defraud anyone and screw you for saying I shouldn't have that right online.

          --
          BMO

          • In real life I have the right to call myself whatever I want as long as I'm not trying to defraud anyone and screw you for saying I shouldn't have that right online.

            Of course you do, but you don't have a right to use Facebook's services.

        • Re:typical (Score:4, Insightful)

          by magic maverick (2615475) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @04:20AM (#42323061) Homepage Journal

          "Additionally, anonymous people tend to act like jackasses online, so their costs are bound to be higher."

          Anonymous people maybe slightly more likely to act like "jackasses" online, however, pseudonymous people, and those using their real names, also act like right dickheads as well. It's not really a good reason to remove anonymity.

          There are many more reasons to not require real names. Political activists (especially in repressive locations) really don't want to use their real name; people with "unusual" hobbies or opinions may not want their "real life" identity connected with discussions online; etc. etc. etc.

          See also: My Name Is Me [mynameisme.org] and Who is harmed by a "Real Names" policy? [wikia.com].

        • Re:typical (Score:4, Informative)

          by FatLittleMonkey (1341387) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @04:21AM (#42323073)

          I'm curious (really) if German ecommerce sites have to accept nicknames along with credit card numbers

          User rgbrenner covered this further down in the thread:
          "
          http://www.cgerli.org/fileadmin/user_upload/interne_Dokumente/Legislation/Telemedia_Act__TMA_.pdf [cgerli.org]

          The important section is 13.6:

          The service provider must enable the use of telemedia and payment for them to occur anonymously or via a pseudonym where this is technically possible and reasonable. The recipient of the service is to be informed about this possibility.

          "

          Mods: Reward the original post, not me. rgbrenner did the research. [slashdot.org]

      • Which is why they wanted a unique cell phone number to identify my account...

        Which is when I stopped using Facebook (about 7-8 months ago).

      • Re:typical (Score:5, Interesting)

        by camperdave (969942) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @02:06AM (#42322491) Journal
        It is this very policy which stops me from using Facebook. If I can't log in with an alias, I won't log in at all. Plus, until you log in, you can't see what Facebook is all about, so I don't even know if Facebook is worth connecting to in the first place.
        • by mosb1000 (710161)

          Since Facebook is meant to help you stay in touch with your friends, signing up with an alias is not going to give you a good idea of what the site is all about. Nevertheless, you can sign up with an alias, and the only risk you run is having them delete your account. I've only seen that happen once, to a friend who had a second account. All my friends who used an alias on their only account still have it.

      • Re:typical (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Sir_Sri (199544) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @02:43AM (#42322657)

        Even then, they can still uniquely identify you by the fake name. But I think they've gotten into trouble with people using fake names and pretending to be people they aren't.

        If you're friends with Cowboy Neal, but he's not on facebook, and I go and make an account under the name Cowboy Neal, take his photos and use that try and befriend you and get you to divulge personal information about your relationship with Cowboy Neal that's hard to prosecute (or police) without a real name policy. Because I have as much right to call myself Cowboy Neal as Johnathan Pater if we can all use nicknames equally. And how do you show that I'm not cowboy neal who just lost his account info.

        Facebook is also trying to convert 'likes' and other marketing products into real tangible things. If you and I both 'like' borderlands 2 then gearbox can see that we liked the page. If we can be fake people that poses a problem. If they want to bill you for a service (points to be used in online games) they need a valid billing name to be able to charge you, and of course eventually they want you to be a paying customer.

        Probably some of it is purely practical. Trying to keep track of one friend using a kind of fake name isn't so bad. Trying to keep track of several of them, that use names which have no relation to their actual name seriously limits the usability of facebook. I, now about 15 years out of highschool, have enough trouble trying to sort out women with married names (15 years and kids change appearance a lot) and a lot of times I can't really tell if it's a person I know or not. Facebook doesn't work if it's trying to be private but social, they are opposing goals. At least in the real world, and with people who only sometimes use facebook and where you can regularly have several hundred friends, all of whom are people you actually know and wish to keep in touch with. Facebook lives and breathes on your ability to find people, if enough people become impossible to find or keep track of it starts to lose its functionality. Of course that need to find the actual correct person is the greatest gift to stalkers in history. Unfortunately.

        I have lots of my (university) students befriend me on facebook, and being in CS and engineering a lot of them are foreign students. Their names on paper are usually names appropriate to their country of origin. But they then try and use western sounding names either part way through or after graduate. And quite honestly, 2 years after you were my student as Xi Li, now being David Lee, I have no fucking clue who you are. That's not even on facebook necessarily, that's just trying to keep track of records of who people actually are. Take a kid out of a classroom, feed him properly for 2 years, give him a real job and some decent clothes and then give me a thumbnail sized photo and I'm not going to to figure out which name I knew you under.

        • by Sir_Sri (199544)

          Third paragraph, last sentence 'they' as in Facebook, not gearbox. I mashed up a couple of thoughts sorry.

        • Re:typical (Score:5, Informative)

          by Rogerborg (306625) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @04:17AM (#42323043) Homepage
          More, in most civilised jurisdictions, you or anyone else can use a "nickname" perfectly legally for most purposes, as long as the intent isn't to defraud. The scale runs all the way from "McName -> MacName" through "Elizabeth -> Liz" to "Raymond Luxury-Yacht -> Throatwobbler Mangrove".
        • by sjames (1099)

          Most real names are not all that unique in the world. There are, no doubt thousands of people who have just as much right to call themselves by the name given to me at birth as I do (because it was given to them at birth as well). The same is likely true for you.

    • Re:typical (Score:4, Insightful)

      by kdemetter (965669) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:17AM (#42322197)

      Not to mention that this seems to actually be a law which serves the people, rather than corporations .

      • Re:typical (Score:4, Interesting)

        by hairyfish (1653411) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:36AM (#42322305)
        But wait, they don't have freedom of speech or the right to bear arms in Germany so how can this be?
        • Re:typical (Score:5, Informative)

          by YttriumOxide (837412) <<yttriumox> <at> <gmail.com>> on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @02:00AM (#42322465) Homepage Journal

          But wait, they don't have freedom of speech or the right to bear arms in Germany so how can this be?

          Article 5 of the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz) would disagree with you on freedom of speech (specifically: freedom of expression). It states:

          (1) Every person shall have the right freely to express and disseminate his opinions in speech, writing, and pictures and to inform himself without hindrance from generally accessible sources. Freedom of the press and freedom of reporting by means of broadcasts and films shall be guaranteed. There shall be no censorship.
          (2) These rights shall find their limits in the provisions of general laws, in provisions for the protection of young persons, and in the right to personal honor.
          (3) Art and scholarship, research, and teaching shall be free. The freedom of teaching shall not release any person from allegiance to the constitution.

          There are of course limits to this as indicated by the second statement; but I've yet to see a country where this is not the case. Even in the much flaunted "free" USA, Wikipedia informs me:

          In the United States freedom of expression is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. There are several common law exceptions including obscenity, defamation, incitement, incitement to riot or imminent lawless action, fighting words, fraud, speech covered by government granted monopoly (copyright), and speech integral to criminal conduct. There are federal criminal law statutory prohibitions covering all the common law exceptions other than defamation, of which there is civil law liability, as well as making false statements (lying) in "matters within the jurisdiction" of the federal government, speech related to information decreed to be related to national security such as military and classified information, false advertising, perjury, privileged communications, trade secrets, copyright, and patents. Most states and localities have many identical restrictions, as well as harassment, and time, place and manner restrictions.

          Overall, it seems similar.

          • by loufoque (1400831)

            Germany has hate speech laws, so not really free speech.

            • by arcade (16638)

              And the US has obscenity and defamation .. so .. not really free speech there neither.

        • We have got freedom of speech here alright, no right to bear arms, though, because there are no bears left except in zoos.

        • by azalin (67640)
          I would say the right to use a nickname protects your freedom of speech a lot. Especially in connection with services like facebook.
          Also I don't see why anyone except the bears should have a right to their arms.
    • Re:typical (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Spaseboy (185521) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:20AM (#42322215)

      An American company really believes they can force Germany to change their laws or allow Facebook to operate outside of the law? Just WOW. What the hell kind of shenanigans are they pulling over here, then?

      • Re:typical (Score:4, Informative)

        by nbauman (624611) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:44AM (#42322369) Homepage Journal

        Germans have a very different attitude towards corporate power and influence. It seems almost quaint.

        http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/23/world/europe/berlin-tour-raises-awareness-on-lobbying.html [nytimes.com]
        Berlin Journal
        And on Your Left, Behind Those Walls, Lobbyists Are at Work
        By NICHOLAS KULISH
        November 22, 2012
        (Timo Lange, campaigner LobbyControl, gives tours to sites of lobbyists. German Brewers Association, cigarette lobby. German Chemical Industry Association. Germans suspicous of propaganda and paid advertising. Money in campaigns is seen not as free speech but as buying access. Merkel lives a modest life.)
        “The problem is the linkage between economic power and political power,” said Daniela Haug.
        “We are very thin-skinned when it comes to any form of propaganda,” Claas Lorenz, 25, a student on the tour, said in a succinct reference to Germany’s Nazi history. “We had very bad experiences with it in our past.”
        Andrea Römmele, a professor at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, said: “Money in campaigns in the United States is freedom of speech; it’s seen as a way of expressing oneself. In Germany, giving money in politics is always seen as trying to buy access.”
        German attitudes toward politics and money help explain the enduring appeal of Ms. Merkel, who still lives in the apartment she got before she became chancellor, and who hikes on vacation. “Merkel is so beloved for her sober, unglamorous style of governing,” said Frank Decker, a professor of political science at the University of Bonn. “With her, you would never imagine that she might use politics to become rich.”
        The Christian Democrats

        • They've been through the extreme -- I hope we don't also have to go through such pain to have such a "quaint" attitude. We could use some of that here now. It's been getting bad for a long time.
      • More to the point, a German regulator in a tiny state thinks they can regulate an American website ????

        In what possible way is this enforceable?

        Worst case, just terminate the service to 1 million German in the affected state and see what happens.

        • by anagama (611277)

          Yeah, the shareholders are going to love that "cut off your nose to spite your face" policy and start wondering what other countries FB is going to bail out of. They already don't have enough customers to justify their IPO price -- to actively reduce them seems a rather unwise policy.

        • by tbird81 (946205)

          Exactly. It's understandable if Facebook operates a business in Germany, but if it's a US website, surely they can tell the Germans to stick it.

          I don't want Saudis or Egyptians deciding what a website not on their soil is able to do either.

        • by azalin (67640)
          Bad move. Cutting off lots of users because of a disagreement with the local law (which favors the users by the way) will make it clear for other users, that facebook can cut of their service at anytime they like. This would also be very, very bad PR in Germany and probably the rest of Europe and make the look even more Big Brother than they already are. Many companies will drop their ads from facebook (at least for a while) in order to profit on the good pr they would get for doing so.
      • by tooyoung (853621)
        If the ruling had been against Google, the prevailing comments on this site would be a call to return no search results for German websites. Interesting how attitudes differ based on the company in question...
    • Re:typical (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CodeBuster (516420) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:36AM (#42322307)
      The statements of belief are matters of opinion to be decided by the German courts. As for the German taxpayers, I doubt that many of them would consider this a waste of money. The Europeans in general and the Germans in particular have very well developed and sophisticated legal concepts of privacy and ownership of personal information. This is due in no small part to successive generations of European taxpayers who, recognizing the value in such things, directed their governments to secure them rather than allowing them to routinely violate them as we've done here in the United States.
    • Sounds like someone that has a complete lack of respect for the law in general. "We don't agree with the law, we don't want you trying to enforce the law on us, and we're going to fight it even though it's law."

      I do hope the German court decides to haul them out back behind the woodshed and explain how legislature, laws, and law enforcement work.

      What? That's not what they said, they said that the order is not grounded in the law and that the legislature never passed anything requiring that. Part of the way that "legislature, laws, and law enforcement" works is that when an order exceeds the authority of the person making the order or is based on a mistaken interpretation, it can be challenged and the court will figure out who is correct. Lots of good caselaw (at least here in the US) was made that way -- not by claiming that the law is wrong, but t

    • Yeah, I'm not sure the average German citizen would be swayed by that argument. I suspect they'd like their money being spent to ensure that corporations obey the law.
    • More like I hope Facebook pulls out of Germany entirely. This is what happens when you try to govern an open, international forum by fencing yourself in.

    • "We believe the orders are without merit, a waste of German taxpayers' money and we will fight it vigorously"

      Sounds like someone that has a complete lack of respect for the law in general. "We don't agree with the law, we don't want you trying to enforce the law on us, and we're going to fight it even though it's law."

      Yes, it is disregard for the law. And it is an attempt to manipulate the public opinion in their favor.

      But the really funny thing is how unadjusted to the German market their spokesdroids are.

      The argument "waste of taxpayers' money" is corporate propaganda used in the US. If government funds a law that provides oversight, it is "waste of taxpayers' money", if however things get funded by "private donations" politicians ought to be praised. (The latter is called corruption in other countries.)

      In Germany p

  • Bullshit-o-meter (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mitreya (579078) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <ayertim>> on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:12AM (#42322163)
    The excuses just get better and better:

    Any accounts set up under fake names will be removed from the site when discovered in order to keep the community safe, according to Facebook.

    How does this keep community safe? Facebook is not a dating site.

    • by khallow (566160) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:15AM (#42322179)

      Facebook is not a dating site.

      And if it were, then fake names would provide better security than real ones.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by luther349 (645380)
      the real answer is Any accounts set up under fake names will be removed from the site when discovered in order to keep the ad money roiling in.
      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        How does a fake name cause an issue there?

        Users are followed and profiled by other means than their names: by the content of their comments and posts, groups they subscribe to, "like"s, other web sites (with Facebook "like" button in place) they visit, and probably a few other means that I can't think of.

        The actual name attached to the account should be quite irrelevant in that matter. It's merely psychological - a "real name" (whatever that may mean) would denote an individual, and a "fake name" not? Most

        • Cross-referencing. Facebook clients don't rely on facebook alone as a source of information. Requiring real names makes it possible to identify common users between Facebook accounts and things like Amazon's shopping records, ebay accounts, store loyalty cards, things like that.

        • by mpe (36238)
          The actual name attached to the account should be quite irrelevant in that matter. It's merely psychological - a "real name" (whatever that may mean) would denote an individual, and a "fake name" not? Most people using nicknames tend to use the same handle across various web sites, exactly so other people can recognise them, and those handles tend to be more unique than real names anyway.

          The whole concept of "real name" is rather difficult to define. Even discounting the likes of musicians, actors, author
    • by Nyder (754090)

      The excuses just get better and better:

      Any accounts set up under fake names will be removed from the site when discovered in order to keep the community safe, according to Facebook.

      How does this keep community safe? Facebook is not a dating site.

      They mean safe for them to use the data to make money.

    • by dadioflex (854298)
      If Facebook remove all the accounts using fake names they'll have fewer members than Myspace.
    • Facebook is not a dating site.

      Facebook is very heavily used as a dating site.

  • by antdude (79039) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:34AM (#42322295) Homepage Journal

    When will USA do the same? :P

  • by SlovakWakko (1025878) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:43AM (#42322363)
    The law gives you the right to use pseudonyms online without being prosecuted for it. If a service provider decides that you can use its service only with your real name, that does not violate the law. You can always use a different service provider. Really, it's ridiculous what the governments are trying to regulate nowadays...
    • I did not know that there is a second service provider that did allow you to log on to facebook.com.
      Like to share its web address?

      Probably you don't understand what a/the law is?

      If the law allows you to use a pseudonyme online then the service provider has no right to define a term stating OTHERWISE! Because exactly that indeed VIOLATES the law. Thats how a damn law works!

  • by rgbrenner (317308) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:44AM (#42322371)

    http://www.cgerli.org/fileadmin/user_upload/interne_Dokumente/Legislation/Telemedia_Act__TMA_.pdf [cgerli.org]

    The important section is 13.6:

    The service provider must enable the use of telemedia and payment for them to occur
    anonymously or via a pseudonym where this is technically possible and reasonable. The
    recipient of the service is to be informed about this possibility.

    (emphasis mine)

    Since it's obviously technically possible, Facebook will have to argue that it's unreasonable.

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      This is indeed one of the big issues with the Internet: it is so international, that existing legal frameworks and international legal agreements do not usually apply.

      Until the Internet, most services were linked somehow to a geographic location. You buy a book from your local book store, if there is an issue then you go back to that book store, and claim your rights under your local laws. However if you order a book from Amazon in the US, and there is an issue, which law applies? The US law of the warehous

  • (A week later...)

    Neither Weichert nor Facebook's privacy officers would comment on the record, but a member of the ULD who wished to stay anonymous said "We're glad we could come to this agreement. Facebook is a wonderful free service. We hope to continue to...accommodate this...wonderful...free service," as he caressed his monitor and looked over deposits to his bank accounts.

  • Those darned privacy laws... Gruss How is poor Facebook supposed to properly monetize its members, if they are allowed to hide their identities?

    That the one thing missing from the US Constitution: an explicit right to privacy.

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      Privacy means you're allowed to hide what you do. Not necessarily to hide who you are.

      So requiring real names does not, as such, infringe privacy - if you put stuff on-line for everyone to see, there is no reason to expect any privacy. If you don't want the world to know all about your life, don't put it on-line, keep it for yourself.

      The only thing a "right to privacy" may help you with is that if you mark certain posts on Facebook as something like "private", "invite only" or "friends only", that Facebook

  • What's in a name? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wvmarle (1070040) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @01:58AM (#42322449)

    One of the big questions is: what's in a name? What is someone's real name? When you introduce yourself to someone, you give a name. Is that your real name? Everyone will assume it is, without questioning it. But as a matter of fact I know people that go around by a nickname instead of their real name - usually a shorthand of their actual name, that they don't like, but a nickname nonetheless. A friend of mine once called me, introducing herself with her real name (which I heard before but never use - we always used a nickname), and basically I recognised her mostly by voice. The name on her passport is not the name her friends know best.

    In Hong Kong it's even more so: all the locals have a Chinese name, written surname first - which sites like Facebook tend to mess up as they use the Western format of given name first. Many also go by an English name, which they actually use mostly in daily life, yet many never bother to register that English name on their passports. That makes it a nickname, yet also the name friends and business associate will know first and foremost.

    For myself as my surname tends to be nearly impossible to pronounce for the locals, I usually just give them my first name to address me. That's hard enough to pronounce for them. And many will use that as were it my last name (adding "mister" in front). And for e.g. writing cheques, I must add my middle name as well - a name that I normally never use.

    Then there is the issue of many people carrying the same name. My name is relatively unique do to a fairly rare surname, and my first name was not used much in my generation. So you see a name, but is that the John Doe you know from the bar, or another John Doe?

    And finally names can be changed, legally, at will. Kim Dotcom from Megaupload fame is an example, and recently on Slashdot the mention of an American man who sold his name to the highest bidder, and for the next year he'll go by another name before assuming his original name again (or taking on yet another name).

    It all comes down to a name being just a label, a way to recognise a person. Whether that label is the same as in that person's passport, that's not so relevant to their friends. They know a guy called "Bill", even when it says "William" in their passports. The argument that names must be "real names" to have people find their friends online, breaks down badly in those cases. A person is who they say they are, and no legal document or whatever is going to change that.

    • by Maow (620678)

      In Hong Kong it's even more so: all the locals have a Chinese name, written surname first - which sites like Facebook tend to mess up as they use the Western format of given name first. Many also go by an English name, which they actually use mostly in daily life, yet many never bother to register that English name on their passports. That makes it a nickname, yet also the name friends and business associate will know first and foremost.

      And then, they'll take their 2nd or 3rd name, double it up, and use that as a Chinese nickname as well as having an English nickname.

      i.e. Wong Tse Mei could be known to Chinese friends as "Mei Mei", English speaking friends as "Sally"...

      And when in North America, they'll use the English name, sometimes use the 2nd & 3rd name's initials (sometimes not, sometimes the whole words), and the surname (which, like you said, comes first usually) in official documents.

      Gets confusing fast! "What combination of 4

      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        i.e. Wong Tse Mei could be known to Chinese friends as "Mei Mei", English speaking friends as "Sally"...

        Indeed they do it like that, but the "Mei Mei" version is rather colloquial and primarily used for children, and the English name "Sally" would be used by most Chinese speaking friends as well. The short-hand version would more likely become "Ah-Mei" - it is so often that I have been told to "ask for ah-something" when I was looking for say the person in charge of a scrap yard, or a construction site, or shop.

        And Wong being the surname, on many Western web sites this name would become "Tse Mei Wong" (I have

  • by flimflammer (956759) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @02:09AM (#42322507)

    Facebook's real name policy complies with European data protection principles and Irish law, according to the social network.

    Oh, well then, as long as it complies there, I guess it doesn't matter if it doesn't comply elsewhere.

  • Ahem. I know of one user who lists their names "Anal Medusa", an anagram of their legit name.

    Does anyone really think that more than 70% of names on Facebook are for real?
  • "Hello Facebook, my name is Hans. Hans Steiner. Yes, even though I'm a woman. My parents hated me."

    For every single new signup.

    That'll fix 'em.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Facebook is not a required service. Nobody has to use it. Users are not paying for it.

    I do not understand why Facebook should have to do anything. I think Germany telling a web site owner/developer that they have to make their system work a particular way is wrong. If Germans do not like sharing their real name online, then Germans should not join Facebook. Simple! How is it Facebook's problem that Germans want a feature that Facebook does not support?

    I think it is great that Germany is trying to be on the

    • by andrewbaldwin (442273) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @03:55AM (#42322915)

      Facebook is not a required service. Nobody has to use it. Users are not paying for it.

      I do not understand why Facebook should have to do anything. I think Germany telling a web site owner/developer that they have to make their system work a particular way is wrong. If Germans do not like sharing their real name online, then Germans should not join Facebook. Simple! How is it Facebook's problem that Germans want a feature that Facebook does not support?

      Germany is not a required market for Facebook. Nobodyis forcing Facebook to operate there.

      I do not understand why Germany should have to do anything. I think a web site owner/developer telling a country that they have to make their system work a particular way is wrong. If Facebook do not like the rules, then Facebook should not operate there. Simple! How is it Germany's problem that Germans have laws that Facebook does not support?

      Fixed that for you

      just wish my own country's cabinet ministers were as protective of its citizens and less easily bought off by big business buddies.

  • I don't care much about the german law either, but forcing people to use his real name in the internet is just wrong. With your real name you can have people know everything about you, while you don't even know that exists. May pull other data from other sources, like your taxes, where you live, who is your family. Is unhealty and a big risk, probably the motives has ben made a law in germany (making it a law is a bit excesive, I think). Revealing your real name open the floodgates for anyone to easy r

  • by l3v1 (787564) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @03:06AM (#42322733)
    As always, this is another example of how US companies sometimes fail to see that there are countries on this planet where data and privacy protection regulations do exist, and not just left to the companies to go by their own terms&conditions changing by the weather.

    Facebook can fight this all they want, it still won't make them any more likeable to a lot of us.
  • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @03:58AM (#42322933)

    I used to know someone. A blogger. Political - his alignment doesn't matter. Liberal, conservative, works either way. He was a total fanatic though: Loyal to his chosen faction, and convicted that it was his patriotic duty to fight against those who threatened America with their disagreement.

    He got into a feud one day with another blogger, operator of some blog I know little of beyond that it related to native american affairs. As part of this feud, he purchased a new domain name, taking the same name as the native american blog. There he started a series if posts, all under his 'un-american' enemies name, advocating for the legalisation of child porn and the abolition of age of consent laws. When I left the two were engaged in a blog comment shouting match, with Mr Asshole claiming that he now owned the rights to that name as he paid money for the domain and demanding the native american blog be closed down.

    This person is not your common, garden-variety asshole. This person is the internet equivilent of the psychopathic axe-murderer. There are many like him - sometimes their trigger is politics, sometimes religion, or something as trivial as loyalty to a football team or a particular celebrity.

    And facebook wants these nutters to have access to your real name. So when you post something that offends their sacred cause, they'll be the ones posting child porn in your name, writing to your boss with an anonymous tipoff about your prior convictions for possession of heroin and mailing your neighbours to inform them that a sex offender lives among them.

  • by mwissel (869864) on Tuesday December 18, 2012 @05:33AM (#42323421) Homepage

    One import detail is missing in TFA and on /.

    They are currently trying to fine them 20.000€ for the violation of their order which is of course laughable. It might become more intersting if this goes to court because then the fines could increase rapidly.

    That said, I am regarding the current move by ULD more as a kickstart for something bigger, because if

    a) Facebook abides, which is highly unlikely, everybody wins
    b) Facebook denies and pays 20k, then they are admitting to violate the law
    c) Facebook denies and does not pay, it will go to court possibly to upper instances leading to a general ruling.

    Mind you, the data protection officials in this small state in Germany's north have a history of pissing corporations to prove our rights, so I am very interested to see where this one goes ;-).

    Here's a source for the 20k fine. You may run it through a translator service of your choice.
    > http://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/Klarnamenzwang-Datenschuetzer-droht-Facebook-mit-Zwangsgeld-1770733.html [heise.de]

The trouble with opportunity is that it always comes disguised as hard work. -- Herbert V. Prochnow

Working...