I am one of the many Facebook users with a pseudonym for my profile (Shhh, don’t tell Facebook). I want to protect myself from people I don't like trying to contact me or future employers/colleagues from delving into my private life (ridiculous, right?). My pseudonym is actually pretty similar to my actual name and based on my childhood nickname so it’s not even that big of a deal. I do have some my friends who get really creative with their pseudonyms. I wish I could tell you about some of them but I don’t want to accidentally rat them out. They use their interests, beliefs, hobbies, or personal stories to craft a name that represents them without giving away their “real” identity. And that is OK, or at least should be.
Well, we might not be able to hide anymore.
On ZDNet today, IT journalist Moritz Jaeger reported that Facebook won a heated battle in Germany against The Independent Centre for Privacy Protection (Unabhängiges Landeszentrums für Datenschutz or ULD) that would have forced Facebook to abolish their “real name” policy. German courts ruled because Facebook Germany is a subsidiary that does not process any personal data and the HQ is located in Ireland, Facebook was only bound to the more lax Irish privacy laws. “Facebook is only bound by Irish law in such matters, the administrative court's ruling that Facebook had to allow individuals to use fake names was effectively repealed.” Ironically, personal data is not processed in the European HQ either.
It’s hard to determine how this will actually play out for German users since it’s practically impossible to keep track of every profile but the precedent this ruling creates is terrifying. Technically, no one is supposed to use nicknames or pseudonyms in any country but this legislation has accepted the idea of “privacy havens.” Now large technology firms can move their headquarters to “privacy havens” to avoid strict data privacy laws? Come on, haven’t we learned our lesson already with tax havens?
Facebook, you are a company created by and mostly supported by the millennial generation. Our generation is finally acknowledging and respecting the human rights of LGBT and gender non-conforming people. Our generation isn’t in charge of legislation (yet), so it’s a little harder to get the law to recognize and accept our generation’s current expressions of identity.
Things like changing our name on Facebook or Twitter can either be a silly form of expression, a sign of boredom, or empowering. Listen, I get how annoying it must be to have to deal with so many fake profiles and “undesirable” accounts. We hate spam, too. But is this a really an effective way to deal with fake profiles? Isn’t there some other indicator you can use to eliminate spam? I appreciate what you have given me and the world, but Facebook you are bringing me down.