On July 28, 2015, the data protection authority in Hamburg, Germany, declared that suspending an account due to using a pseudonym, unilateral changes of an account to the “real” name and requesting a copy of an official piece of identification are inadmissible.
While trans people, domestic abuse survivors, sex workers, performers, the Native American community and many others have been challenging Facebook’s “real name” policy, the world-wide operating company has always retreated behind the rather slack data protection rules in Ireland, where Facebook is officially registered.
Social media is a powerful tool to connect, mobilize and let trans people express their true selves around the world. The daily online interaction can be an invaluable lifeline in particular for young trans people, those living in rural areas or otherwise isolated from peer trans folks. Many have to rely on anonymity on the internet to stay safe in their jobs, schools, communities and families.
An official piece of identification matching name, gender identity or gender expression offers little for cross-dressers and people with a non-binary gender identity as rigid rules for adapting ID documents are based on two exclusive options “female” or “male”. In Europe today 22 states request sterilisation in legal gender recognition de facto barring many trans people from getting such documents.
“Yesterday’s decision is very encouraging as it strengthens the right to self-determination and privacy in an increasingly interconnected world with at times overpowering global actors.” comments TGEU Senior Policy Officer Richard Köhler:
“The right to self-determination includes the choice of name to present with. It is an important aspect of each person’s right to private life and dignity.”
“Requesting trans people to reveal official names as printed on ID documents is cruel and ignorant of the fact that many states don’t allow for a change of ID at all, or require sterilisation, a mental health diagnosis and/ or divorce for it.”
Köhler continues: “Facebook should immediately stop its “real name” policy that pushes trans and gender variant people out of the net. The use of a pseudonym is not the same as identity fraud and should not be treated as such.”
“As a de facto monopoly Facebook should live up to its own community standards and engage actively against trolls, harassment and hate speech to make the internet a safer and more equal place for everyone.”
Press Statement of the Hamburg Data Protection Authority
Transgender Europe is a European human rights NGO working for the human rights and equality of all trans people. More Information: www.tgeu.org
Transgender or Trans is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity or expression differs from the sex assigned to them at birth.
TGEU Senior Policy Officer Richard Köhler is available for interviews and questions and can be reached at:
phone: +49 (0)177 65 31 518