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Mark Zuckerberg

Germany is threatening Facebook via CEO Mark Zuckerberg with a $26,000 fine for disallowing German citizens to maintain anonymous identities on the social network.

Granted, $26,000 is pocket change to either entity, and privacy-related censure from European governments is not news to Facebook, which has faced a string of audits, warnings, and even formal regulation banning media usage of Facebook data in Europe over the past couple years.

The issue at hand in today’s news is anonymity. In Germany, all citizens have the right to use online services anonymously or pseudonymously, a right that, the EFF points out, can be life-saving in some circumstances.

In letters directed to Zuckerberg and Facebook’s Ireland office, data protection commissioner for the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, Thilo Weichert, wrote, “It is unacceptable that a U.S. portal like Facebook violates German data protection law, unopposed and with no prospect of an end,” as The Guardian reports.

Facebook responded via email to VentureBeat, saying, “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 believe the orders are without merit, a waste of German taxpayers’ money, and we will fight it vigorously.”

While some would argue that it is entirely possible and, in fact, quite common among certain demographics, to create and use pseudonymous accounts on Facebook, we’re more interested to see how Facebook reacts to the principle of the proposed censure, since the money is obviously beside the point.

Facebook has long had a real-identity policy, something that the company says fosters genuine interaction and real connections on the site. But it would be facile not to acknowledge the role Facebook’s handling of identity has had in the company’s business success as well.

Image credit: gpaumier/Flickr

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