Facebook seeks to hunt down pseudonyms

Facebook is a tremendous tool for socialising and getting in touch with people. By its very nature it is built to let you do so in the most convenient way possible. Some users choose to use pseudonyms for further privacy, whether that's privacy from real-world friends or otherwise. However, it would seem that Facebook aren't excited by the possibility of "Christiano Ronaldofan" going around on their service if his real name is John Doe.

News from within Germany seems to suggest that they are taking action, showing prompts to users to allow them to tell the company directly. So far it seems to only be in Germany. At the time of writing I haven't encountered this on my personal Facebook account but it could appear globally soon. Either that or it's an attempt to aid Germany's legal set-up. Germany, while part of the European Union and therefore sharing the majority of rules with its fellow countries, operates a few choice alterations and additions of its own.

Among these additions is the 'Impressum' online. The term is derived from Latin, but has no real meaning in English. In Germany though it is the term used for a database which is publicly available, and confirms ownership of something. This is applied to newspapers, books, magazines, and websites, but possibly also Facebook accounts. A competent lawyer could probably argue a Facebook account is a website of sorts, with that being made easier by the Facebook username appearing at the end of the URL. If you've been chosen to snitch on your friends, here's the pop-up you'll receive.


Help us to improve your Facebook experience

Please help us understand how members use Facebook. Your answer remain anonymous and won't affect your friend's account. Is this the real name of your friend?

Yes / No / I don't know this person / I don't want to answer

Guidelines for names / Send

Certain parts of this translation may not be correct, though the majority is correct, having been contributed by Neowin user Mephistopheles. Mephistopheles also points out that this has angered some bloggers, who compared the move to something the Stasi would have been behind. For those unaware, the Stasi were the "Ministry for State Security" in what was known as East Germany. Effectively a secret police they were comparable to the KGB in the Soviet Union, who are identified as the "Committee for State Security". 

Plenty of horror stories about the Stasi exist. Stories of suspected dissidents being executed are fairly common, and executions for telling a joke had happened as well. The Stasi were well known for their actions, none of which were particularly pleasant. With Facebook being compared to the Stasi by Germans, it's a big deal for the company. The Stasi didn't really make friends with people, but the comparison could be taken as an unusual one. The easiest way to compare the two is the encouragement made to act as an informant against your friends and family.

It could be completely innocent. They genuinely might be interested in how and why people choose to use pseudonyms for other reasons. There are some legitimate reasons for using a pseudonym on the service and there's a chance that they won't do anything. They expressly say nothing will happen to your friend's account. Maybe they're being honest, but with the Stasi comparison being made it could leave a sour taste in the mouths of many German users.

Have your say in the Neowin forums, and see how other readers feel about the change. Do you feel it's a step towards excessive control of your Facebook? Let us know!

Source and Facebook Pop-up: Heise Online: "Facebook hunts for Pseudonyms"
Impressum explanation: Wikipedia

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28 Comments

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Tha Bloo Monkee said,
Yay now I won't have to see people with names such as 'John Ballin' Doe' or 'John 2Kool Doe'.
If you don't want to deal with them.. don't friend them..

Ryoken said,
If you don't want to deal with them.. don't friend them..

Doesn't mean they don't show up in friends' content.

Ryoken said,
If you don't want to deal with them.. don't friend them..

LOL

Are you for real?
Your friends seem easily disposable for you, methinks...
(I know it's for online profiles only, though, if you start throwing out your best friends you care about most, why even bother with Facebook at all? Is that your next suggestion maybe? ^_^)

GS:mac

Well that sucks, the only liable and real information about me, is on linkedin.
Facebook is all garbage info, center-african middle school, some random town in the US i live and born. I dont want to be found on FB, i'll find others Googling my name and find out my friends, families and what not... I like the anonymousness of the internet, I adore it, and I will defend it and stand by it for the rest of my e-life!
People are only able to find me if they actually know me. Thats how I want to keep it

Shadowzz said,
Well that sucks, the only liable and real information about me, is on linkedin.
Facebook is all garbage info, center-african middle school, some random town in the US i live and born. I dont want to be found on FB, i'll find others Googling my name and find out my friends, families and what not... I like the anonymousness of the internet, I adore it, and I will defend it and stand by it for the rest of my e-life!
People are only able to find me if they actually know me. Thats how I want to keep it

same for me if I don't know you personally then you won't know who I am on FB

JWharmsby said,
I had a friend who was forced to change his name because of this, and we are in the UK so it is spreading.

Forced? How?

It will go Facebook-wide and it doesn't have anything to do with "improving your Facebook experience". Just follow the money, it's all about accuracy of their data on you.

Good. There are plenty of ways to protect yourself if you don't want to be found.

If you really don't want people knowing who you are, don't sign up to services like Facebook. I hate looking for a friend, only to find they've changed their name. ********s.

Nashy said,
Good. There are plenty of ways to protect yourself if you don't want to be found.

If you really don't want people knowing who you are, don't sign up to services like Facebook. I hate looking for a friend, only to find they've changed their name. ********s.

... thats a bit sexist, not their fault they got married....

sagum said,

... thats a bit sexist, not their fault they got married....


For real, this is happening more and more often with mine. I think it's time to do something with my life

Nashy said,
Good. There are plenty of ways to protect yourself if you don't want to be found.

If you really don't want people knowing who you are, don't sign up to services like Facebook. I hate looking for a friend, only to find they've changed their name. ********s.

That is completely stupid. People may still want or need to use Facebook despite not wanting their real name known.

Facebook was what fueled much of the 'Arab Spring', and you can bet a lot more people would have been murdered or arrested if they had all used their real names.

If you have problems with your friends changing their names on Facebook, then the problem is with your friends, not Facebook.

mikeyx12 said,

That is completely stupid. People may still want or need to use Facebook despite not wanting their real name known.

Facebook was what fueled much of the 'Arab Spring', and you can bet a lot more people would have been murdered or arrested if they had all used their real names.

If you have problems with your friends changing their names on Facebook, then the problem is with your friends, not Facebook.

I'm sorry, but do the people running that free site agree with myself or you?

Nashy said,

I'm sorry, but do the people running that free site agree with myself or you?

Obviously, they agree with you, and that's where the problem is...

Nashy said,

I'm sorry, but do the people running that free site agree with myself or you?

Please don't call facebook a free site. Its far from it. They have adverts that are targeted at you based on the data they mine from not only your profile, but your friends too. Not only that, but any site that uses the facebook API you visit means they can track you via that too.

This information, is super valuable to them, the information you freely give to them are making Mark and his muttly crewe a small fortune.

Sushovan De said,
My friend got this prompt, and he's in the US.

I can kind of understand if its say Germany alone, as each have their own pertaining laws. I do however find it it strange that they should roll this out around the world, mostly because at one point facebook had an option to display a real name as a known as, then they had nickname. I just checked my facebook account and I can't find any references to either of them now. I can only assume they're removing all that kind of stuff.
If that is the case, its certainly going to upset a few freemen of the world.

If you're using Facebook, then you are automatically accepting everything they do. You've agreed on the terms and services the first time you signed up right?

PiRhnas said,
If you're using Facebook, then you are automatically accepting everything they do. You've agreed on the terms and services the first time you signed up right?

They can trow me out whenever they want, their lose.

PiRhnas said,
If you're using Facebook, then you are automatically accepting everything they do. You've agreed on the terms and services the first time you signed up right?

yep, but that doesn't mean we can't complain (or note) when they do something we don't like I'm personally fine with this, as long as (assuming that it is to kick people off using pseudonyms) it gives me a chance to put in my real name before it just kicks me off.

PiRhnas said,
If you're using Facebook, then you are automatically accepting everything they do. You've agreed on the terms and services the first time you signed up right?

Well yes and no, if if its an item specifically in the TOS then yes, if its not, or if its something they snuck in under some new TOS then maybe not. Just ask Google, they got hit with some major backlash over changes to their TOS.

Anyone see the irony in this happening in Germany, is FB the new gestapo?

Richeemxx said,

Well yes and no, if if its an item specifically in the TOS then yes, if its not, or if its something they snuck in under some new TOS then maybe not. Just ask Google, they got hit with some major backlash over changes to their TOS.

Anyone see the irony in this happening in Germany, is FB the new gestapo?


Pass some of that stuff you're smoking.

Last time I checked Germany is way ahead in terms of consumer protection over the US for example.

We'd rather see a new Gestapo established there and many other countries first...

The law is an old one and comes from long before the internet, so that anyone publishing content can be held liable should he or she write things that are of illegal nature etc...
AFAIK it roots back to the days of early book printing if I'm not mistaken.

This has little to do with Facebook, more with how German laws are - in this case unfortunately applying to online profiles, too, which I find ridiculous as well.

GS:mac