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."

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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