Facebook's Undoing? Legal Battle Demands Right To Anonymous Accounts
European law may require right to anonymity. Will Zuckerberg's ad-based business model "crumble"?
DIE WELT (Germany)
BERLIN – A registered letter from the German city of Kiel may already have arrived at 1601 South California Avenue in Palo Alto, California.
Written by German data protection advocate Thilo Weichert and addressed to Mark Zuckerberg, the letter says that the Facebook founder faces a 20,000 euro penalty if in the next two weeks he doesn’t make it possible for Germans to open anonymous accounts on the social network, according to Die Welt.
Zuckerberg is not expected to comply. But he is expected to put his lawyers on to what is a potential game-changer for the Internet giant. Weichert’s position is that Facebook’s entire capital value is based on a model that violates German and European data protection laws.
For Facebook, the issue of verified user identities is existential because they are needed for targeted marketing that, Weichert says, is the company’s bread and butter. "The reasons that Facebook gives for demanding real names are a pretext." Facebook needs the real identities simply to make money from advertising, Weichert concludes.
However German telecommunications legislation, under which Facebook falls, specifies that service providers must give users the option of using their services anonymously or with a pseudonym.
Weichert believes that if suits in Germany and Europe are successful "then the Facebook business model will crumble."