Advocates Urge FCC To Stick To Timeline For Privacy Rules

The Federal Communications Commission should reject advertisers' request for additional time to evaluate rules that would limit some forms of online behavioral advertising, a coalition of advocates says.

"This issue is extremely important and timely. In order to protect consumers without undue delay, the FCC should decide it as quickly as possible," the Center for Digital Democracy, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Free Press and seven other organizations say in a new regulatory filing.

The privacy groups are responding to a letter sent to the FCC this week by the Association of National Advertisers, which asked the agency to extend the comment deadline to July 26 -- two months later than the current May 27 deadline.

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Late last month, the FCC voted 3-2 to move forward with a plan to require broadband providers to obtain subscribers' explicit consent before using data about their Web-surfing activity to serve them targeted ads. The FCC's 147-page notice of proposed rulemaking also poses more than 500 questions, including whether certain forms of tracking technologies -- including "supercookies" and "deep packet inspection" -- should be banned.

The proposed rules would apply only to Internet access providers, and not to "edge providers" -- meaning companies that offer Web content or services, including Google and Facebook.

The ANA says it needs more time to analyze the impact of the proposal on its members -- which include broadband providers as well as companies offering online services.

The privacy groups oppose the delay, arguing that the FCC's notice of proposed rulemaking -- which poses more than 500 questions to commenters -- was expected. The filing notes that the FCC held a workshop about online privacy in April of 2015, when advocates and industry representatives publicly discussed the possibility of new rules for broadband providers.

"The public has long had notice of many of the questions the FCC would attempt to address in this proceeding because of the extensive interactions between the FCC, regulated entities, and the public," the organizations say. "A 60-day extension is unwarranted."

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