Social networking site Facebook in stand off over German anonymity law

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Social Networking giant Facebook has come under fire from a German privacy watchdog in relation to its real name policy.

The data protection commissioner for the German state of Schleswig-Holstein has threatened to fine CEO Mark Zuckerberg £16,000 - if the networking site continues with its policy of not allowing Germans to have anonymous accounts on the platform.

Thilo Weichert has insisted that under German law, media services such as those provided by Facebook, must offer their users an option of using a pseudonym rather than their real name.

Mr Weichert said: "It is unacceptable that a US portal like Facebook violates German data protection law, unopposed and with no prospect of an end."

Facebook has said it will vigorously defend itself in regards to the action, and with anonymity allowing users to browse certain areas of the site without many of the targeted ads that usually occur upon login, it is easy to see why the firm would be eager to defend itself against such a ruling.

With much of its revenue generated through firms using the social media platform for their Internet marketing via things such as targeted ads, any law ruling in favour of people keeping their anonymity could potentially limit a significant amount of revenue the firm generates in a country or region which implements said changes.

In a statement issued to TechCrunch, Facebook said: "It 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."

This is not the first time such a wrangle has occurred between Facebook and Germany however, with the social networking site tangling with German privacy watchdogs in 2011. The northernmost of Germany's 16 states, Schleswig-Holstein was once again involved - taking the action of banning local organisations and companies from using Facebook's like button, claiming that it allowed the site to monitor users.

Another incident in 2011 involved Hamburg's data protection authority ruling that a facial recognition feature on the site also violated German privacy laws.

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