German Facebook Decision Finds Irish Law Applies

A German administrative court (Oberverwaltungsgericht Schleswig) has on 22/04/13 decided that data protection issues relating to Facebook can only be dealt with by Irish data protection law as the processing of data takes place in Ireland where Facebook Limited is operating from. The decision follows an appeal by a data protection authority in Schleswig against earlier rulings which it reversed.

The background to the decision is that Facebook requests their users to disclose their full name upon registration. It closes accounts where users do not enter their correct name. The local Schleswig data protection authority argued that German data protection law is applicable to Facebook’s operations in Germany and that under German law Facebook must allow users to use a pseudonym and not only their real names. The authority ordered Facebook to make provisions for that and Facebook is challenging it in the German court.

The court has not yet decided whether, under Irish law, Facebook will have to allow the use of pseudonyms. It is to be noted that this superior German court focuses on where is the centre of Facebook’s operations as regards data processing and therefore concludes for the applicability of Irish law and not the German law.