FCC Won't Impose Privacy Rules On Web Publishers, Ad Networks

The Federal Communications Commission has rejected advocacy group Consumer Watchdog's request to impose new privacy regulations on Facebook, Google and other Web companies.

"The Commission has been unequivocal in declaring that it has no intent to regulate edge providers," the FCC's Wireline Bureau said in a decision issued on Friday.

The agency added that Consumer Watchdog's request is inconsistent with the recent net neutrality rules, which only apply to broadband access providers, and not content companies like Facebook or Google.

"The Consumer Watchdog Petition plainly does not warrant consideration by the Commission," the order states.

The FCC was responding to a petition filed in June by Consumer Watchdog, which argued that the FCC should prohibit Web companies from sharing data with ad networks about consumers who activate do-not-track. Consumer Watchdog also asked the FCC to require ad networks to stop collecting data from consumers who turn on do-not-track headers.

“Do Not Track requests -- if required to be honored -- give consumers increased control over their data and would build trust in the Internet and spur broadband use,” Consumer Watchdog said in its petition. The group added that edge providers "collect the same sensitive personal information that broadband Internet access service providers collect, and that the Commission is committed to protecting.”

The advocacy organization said on Friday that it will urge "state regulators, Congress and the courts to better protect Internet users’ privacy."

“We believe the FCC has the authority to enforce Internet privacy protections far more broadly than they have opted to do and are obviously disappointed by this decision,” John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director, said in a statement.

“Requiring that Do Not Track requests be honored is a simple way to give people necessary control of their information and is in no way an attempt to regulate the content of the Internet," he added.

In the past, the FCC wasn't responsible for policing privacy on broadband networks. But the agency's decision to reclassify broadband as a common carrier service also empowers the FCC to subject broadband providers to the same kinds of privacy regulations followed by telephone carriers.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has indicated that the agency will consider issuing new, broadband-specific privacy rules. So far, however, the agency has only said that broadband providers should follow the "core tenets" of privacy protections.

1 comment about "FCC Won't Impose Privacy Rules On Web Publishers, Ad Networks".
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  1. Ari Rosenberg from Performance Pricing Holdings, LLC, November 9, 2015 at 1:55 p.m.

    “Do Not Track requests -- if required to be honored -- give consumers increased control over their data...."

    That's where you lost me.  Trying to "opt out" of being tracked is a riduculous exercise in futility. 

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