Facebook is changing the rules on pseudonyms here and there and this may be the beginning of the end of their peculiar real name policy.
To explain the whole situation in one sentence; Facebook wants us all to use our real identities, many of us do not for one reason or another.
The solution; Facebook should create Pseudonym accounts where you get the same account as everyone else except it clearly says pseudonym, so everyone knows you’re not using your real name.
But till Facebook realises this, we’re playing a cat and mouse game.
People make up accounts, someone reports them, Facebook demands identification, if it doesn’t come, they close the account.
For many people this is a very serious issue that can even be related to life threatening situations, for instance imagine someone on the run from an abusive ex or for political reasons who still wants to stay in touch with friends and family.
For us in Second Life the issue is generally a lot less drastic, but one many of us care about nevertheless.
Recently Johannes Caspar, the Hamburg commissioner for data protection and freedom of information, explained that according to German privacy laws, Facebook was not allowed to demand from its users to send their identification or change their profile name.
More about this in my previous blog you can read here (click).
A website called ‘cyberwarcone’ even wrote in this article (click) that Facebook now allows people from Germany and specifically from Hamburg to use pseudonyms or at least use Facebook without identifying themselves, but I am not sure what their source is for this claim.
I think they just repeat what everyone else is saying; Johannes Caspar wants Facebook to follow the German laws but nothing has been officially announced yet.
As far as I can find out, Germany is making demands but Facebook has not yet responded.
While Germany and Facebook were duelling it out over these rules, someone I know but who prefers to remain anonymous, was actually confronted by Facebook over the use of their name and asked to confirm their identity.
She was about to accept that her account, like one before, would soon be deleted but then remembered my story (click) about the German privacy laws and decided instead of sending them a picture of her Identity card, to send them a picture of this note she wrote which was practically a copy of what I mentioned on my blog;
Much to her surprise Facebook accepted this identification and reactivated her profile.
So either they don’t care about what kind of picture you send in as long as you send in a file when they ask for your identification, or someone at Facebook wasn’t paying attention or somehow they asked her for identification by mistake or… if you live in Germany (or claim to do so), they will simply have to accept that you don’t have to identify yourself.
Has Facebook already accepted these laws, are they just being careful awaiting what will happen next or is it all just a big coincidence?
Fact is, she told them she was German and didn’t have to send them her ID and they seem to have accepted it.
Of course this could have been a glitch, a mistake, an error, just a fluke, or just luck.
If you have any experience in this matter, if something similar happened to you, please share your story in the comments section.
Lets hope that this could be the thing that pushes Facebook over the edge towards accepting pseudonyms.
For years their real name policy has been getting a lot of flack and it even gave the competition a step up.
Websites like Twitter and Google+ have very liberal identity rules or have listened to their users and relaxed them, this has send users in their direction, away from Facebook.
Besides, Facebook is fighting a losing battle, an estimated 170 million Facebook accounts are fake and that number is growing.
There is nothing they can do about this and their struggle is only damaging their reputation.