Facebook 'Defeats' Germany

Facebook has been involved in some legal drama in Germany, but now the court has decided to rule in the social network's favor.

In December 2012, the company was ordered to allow German citizens the ability to register under pseudonyms instead of their real names, if that was what they desired to do. The country's Data Protection regulator Thilo Weichert issued the order, citing strict German privacy policies as the foundation for the ruling.

On Thursday Feb. 14, however, the Schleswig-Holstein administrative court in northern Germany ruled that Facebook's policy was not under the jurisdiction of German law, and suspended the order immediately.

"The regulator wrongfully based its order on German data protection law," the judges said, according to Bloomberg. Since the company's European headquarters is in Ireland, "Irish data protection law exclusively applies." Ireland's privacy laws aren't nearly as stringent as Germany's.

For his part, Weichert objected to the ruling and vowed to appeal, up to the German Supreme Court, if necessary. He said that companies shouldn't be allowed to skirt German law by basing themselves in other European countries, but that argument falls on the wrong side of current European Union law. If data is processed by a company's branch in another state, then the laws that take priority are those in which the company is based.

According to TechCrunch, the ultimate goal of the data protection agency was to file a traditional lawsuit against Facebook after it completed an evaluation of the social network's legal standing relative to the EU's privacy laws. Since it needed time to do that, it filed the order on behalf of German citizens complaining about Facebook's policy.

Understandably satisfied with the court's decision, Facebook issued the following statement:

"We are pleased with the decision of the Administrative Court of Appeals of Schleswig-Holstein. We believe this is a step into the right direction," said a Facebook spokesman to TechCrunch. "We hope that our critics will understand that it is the role of individual services to determine their own policies about anonymity within the governing law — for Facebook Ireland, European data protection and Irish law. We therefore feel affirmed that the orders are without merit."

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