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Facebook faces minimal penalties for flouting German law

Loek Essers | Jan. 9, 2013
Facebook only risks a fine of €20,000 (US$26,000) if it loses a dispute over its real name policy in Germany, but will be hurt more by bad publicity generated by the litigation, a German privacy regulator said on Tuesday.

The size of the fines that could be imposed are not that important in this case, Elbrecht said. "Facebook bleeds much more with bad publicity," she said, adding that this case is about status and image and not about money.

While Facebook could easily pay the fine and continue its real name policy if it loses the lawsuit, she predicted it would not do so because of the public pressure. "Facebook will do everything to be seen as a serious business," Elbrecht said.

It remains to be seen who is right in this case, because the disputed law is ambiguous about the use of online pseudonyms, Elbrecht said. But the contents of the ULD's complaint are good, she said.

Facebook will fight the ULD's orders vigorously because they are without merit and a waste of German taxpayers' money, a Facebook spokesman said in an email repeating the company's stance on the matter. "It is the role of individual services to determine their own policies about anonymity within the governing law," he said.

 

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