By IT-Lex Intern Eric Everson (Twitter)
Last week, Facebook’s real name policy came under international legal scrutiny as the Data Protection Commissioner of Schleswig-Holstein (a German state) demanded an option for Germans to use the service anonymously. The Data Protection Commissioner has declared Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities (particularly Section 4, which asserts the real name policy of the company) as violative of German privacy laws. Facebook’s policy requires users to register with their real names and cannot use anonymous pseudo names. The Commissioner also declared to Facebook Ireland and CEO Mark Zuckerberg that he could face fines over $26,000 USD.
Facebook issued a statement suggesting that they will vigorously fight the Commissioners orders in a move that will pit European law against the German law. Facebook Ireland (Facebook’s European arm) has sought a clarification from the Irish Data Protection Officer who declared Facebook’s policy as compliant with European data protection laws.
As was sorted out by Fraley v. Facebook, 830 F.Supp.2d 785, “To join Facebook, a user must provide his or her name, age, gender, and a valid e-mail address, and agree to Facebook’s terms of service.” Facebook stands by their real name policy and has addressed the use of anonymous/ fake names via its Help Center:
“Facebook is a community where people connect and share using their real identities. When everyone uses their real first and last names, people can know who they’re connecting with. This helps keep our community safe.”
As a matter of eDiscovery, Facebook’s real name policy adds to the authenticity of the data generated via this social media site. Facebook’s real name policy contrasts with other popular social media sites such as Twitter where user’s can change their name on a regular basis if they desire.
Much of what makes social media challenging in eDiscovery is its ever-changing nature as dynamic content. The collection and preservation of social media generated content is often limited by public follow features at the provider level, or by other means that include web crawling/ snapshots and connecting to content source API’s. This conflict of international law that Facebook has stepped into seems to put Facebook on the right side of ensuring the integrity and authentication of social media content.
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