Thursday 12 January 2012

Nice try, Facebook

Thank you, Facebook, for confirming my misgivings about the trustworthiness of your website.

Tuesday morning, I went to check Facebook and received a message telling me that my account had been disabled. I followed their "why is my account disabled?" link and was told that fake names are not permitted. I would have to submit my real name in order to regain access to my account.

Well, fair enough. Rules are rules and I had indeed been using a fake name ("Hippie Housewife") for my personal account. I had only created a personal account in order to create a Facebook page for The Hippie Housewife, in order to better interact with all you wonderful readers. I had, and continue to have, zero interest in having a personal account for my own use.

But if a real name was required, well, what are you going to do. I submitted my honest-to-goodness real name in their online form and waited to regain access to both my personal account and my blog's Facebook page.

Instead, I soon received the following email from an unidentified member of the Facebook team:

Facebook is a community where people use their real identities. We require everyone to provide their real first and last names and real birthday so you always know who you're connecting with.

Your account is temporarily suspended because your profile doesn’t list your real name. Before we can reopen this account, we need to verify your identity.

Please reply to this email and attach a digital image of one of the acceptable documents outlined below so we can verify your account information. We will permanently delete our record of this digital image from our servers after we use it to confirm your identity.

If you have a government-issued ID (ex: passport or driver's license) please attach that.

If you do not have a government-issued ID, please attach copies of at least TWO documents that:

- Are from a respected institution (ex: business, school, university)
- Combined show your full name, birthday, and picture

Some examples of acceptable documents include:

- School or work ID
- Utility bill
- Marriage license
- Legal name change paperwork
- Credit card (with the number blacked out)
- Birth certificate

If possible, save this file as a JPEG. Be sure to cover up any personal information that we don't need to verify your identity (ex: address, license number). We also recommend sending your attachments over a secure connection. Find out more here:

Once we receive your response with the proper identification attached, we can assist you further. In the meantime, don’t create a new account because this could make it more difficult to resolve your issue.

Note that we will not be able to take any action on this account unless we receive the proper documents. Sorry for the inconvenience.

For more information on our name policies, please visit:



A website was actually asking me to submit photo identification to verify my real name.

Photo identification. To a social networking website.

You've got to be kidding me.

(I mean, what good is photo ID to them anyway? They can't even see me! Completely negates the purpose, no?)

Well, it was bad enough Facebook had my real name; they haven't exactly proved themselves to be trustworthy over the years. But requesting photo identification was so wildly inappropriate, it simply was not going to happen. Creating an entirely new account was also not an option for me if I wanted any hope of having The Hippie Housewife's Facebook page reactivated.

So I did what I do best: I dug into the issue, did a bit of research. Came up with some rather interesting quotes from the Facebook PR team, which I used in my reply to the ludicrous request for my photo ID:

According to the Facebook PR team:

"When we detect that an account may be fake, we ask the owner to verify his or her identity. In very rare cases where no other form of verification is possible, we may ask the account owner to verify by providing a valid ID. We'll never ask you to verify your account over email. Instead, you have to first go to, enter your username and password, and then be told that your account is disabled and directed to a contact form in our Help Center (also on where you're asked to provide the required info. We intentionally made the entire process on-site so that people have more confidence that it's not a scam."

Instead, you have asked me to provide photo ID through email. Am I to presume this is a scam of some sort?

I provided Facebook with my real name this morning and would be happy to verify this identity in a way other than by emailing my photo identification. For example, I can reply to this ID verification request email with my alternate email address, which also contains my real name. Please let me know what other options are available for verification (third party verification, etc), as providing my photo identification is not an option.

[Full Name]

That email was also sent Tuesday morning, two hours after receiving their request for proof of identity.

The rest of Tuesday went by with no reply. reply. Thursday morning, I woke up to find the following email waiting for me:

Hi [FirstName],

Your name information has been corrected, and we have reactivated your account. Please note that this name change is considered final and you will no longer be able to edit the name on your account.

Facebook requires users to provide their real first and last names. Your account must comply with all of the following authenticity standards:

• Fake names are not permitted.
• Initials cannot stand in place of your full name.
• Nicknames can be used, but only if they are a variation on your real first or last name, such as 'Bob' instead of 'Robert'.
• The use of professional and religious titles within names is not permitted.
• The use of special characters within names is not permitted.
• Impersonating anyone or anything is not permitted.

We apologize for any inconvenience this policy may pose. If you are concerned about your privacy, you can always restrict who can find you in searches from the Privacy page, which can be accessed by selecting the “Settings” link at the top of every Facebook page.

There is also a section to list your alternate (or maiden) name on the Account Settings page. People will be able to search for you by both your account name and your alternate name. You can select whether your alternate name will appear along with your account name on your profile, search listings and friend requests.

If you have any further questions, please visit our Help Center at the following address:

Thanks for your understanding,

User Operations

Well thank you very much, Barry. I never did receive a specific reply to my email; Barry's email came as a stand-alone email from another support address. But I'm not complaining - not about the resolution, anyway.

What I do find infuriating is the idea that Facebook would have the audacity to actually request that a person email a digital copy of their photo ID. How many people take that request at face value and provide Facebook with that sort of information, believing they have no other choice? Or, alternatively, how many others just snort at the request and create a new account altogether?

Well, Facebook, you have certainly confirmed my misgivings about you. Congratulations on now possessing my real name, but heck if you'll ever convince me to email you my photo identification.

Nice try, Facebook.


  1. Wow that's crazy ! I'm glad you were able to prove your point and find a way around it. My husband had something similar happen when his account had been hacked and the password got changed. Facebook requested my husband write his name on a piece of paper and take a picture of himself holding the paper to send in to prove his actual existence. LOL, like that really proves who someone is. Anywho....sorry you had to go through all this with Facebook.

    1. Melody, I'm not sure whether to laugh or shake my head. As if, like you said, taking your picture with a name you wrote down proves anything. So ridiculous.

  2. I know someone who had someone impersonate her - and he did it with her legal name, while her main account is (and has always been) in a pseudonym. The security argument is totally bogus - they are just after information, no matter which way they get it. Scary.

    1. It's particularly scary, Michelle, to consider why they want all that information.

  3. I have about 70 friends on facebook, and sometimes, that feels like about 70 too many.

  4. That is just ridiculous! Can you create a fan page on Facebook without submitting your personal information?

    1. No, Hollie, you can't. You need a personal account (real name only!) first in order to create a fan page. Very frustrating, especially since Facebook used to accept pseudonyms. Apparently they didn't change their policy until Google+ came along and insisted on real names only.

  5. That is ridiculous! Why on earth would one need a real name on social network. That makes me more wary of Facebook too!

  6. Shame on FB. How creepy too and honestly I find it bogus. I don't know how many people's names are "Sally YouCanBringMeDown Smith" I don't see how that is okay.

  7. I am going through the same thing! I copy and pasted your response (thank you!) and uploaded it as my 'ID'. :)

  8. Instead of a personal account where you need your real name, you should create a facebook page. A page is the same thing that companies use. And a page, can use all the details from you site.

    1. I do have a Facebook page, Amy (, but a personal account was required in order to create it - at least as far as I could tell! It would be interesting to find out otherwise, though. If you have more info on that, I'd love to hear it. :)