When the FCC unveiled its tough broadband privacy proposals, cable companies and telecoms quickly denounced the possible regulations, which could put a big crimp in their plans to engage in online behavioral advertising.
The proposed privacy rules would require ISPs to obtain subscribers' opt-in consent before tracking them in order to send them targeted ads. The cable and telecom industry argues that those rules would unfairly impose new obligations on them, while leaving Google, Facebook and other so-called edge providers to continue collecting data about consumers for ad purposes.
Some privacy advocates, including the Electronic Privacy Information Center, also argue that ISPs and edge providers should be subject to the same privacy rules -- though the privacy advocates say that all companies should get people's opt-in consent before using data about them for marketing purposes.
"While ISPs are clearly engaged in invasive consumer tracking and profiling practices, they are not the only so-called gatekeepers to the Internet who have extensive and detailed views of consumers’ online activities," EPIC says in comments submitted to the FCC. "Indeed, many of the largest email, search, and social media companies rival the scope and data collection activities of the ISPs."
The Internet Association -- which represents Google, Facebook, eBay, Amazon and other Web companies -- counters that edge providers are already subject to various state laws as well as enforcement actions by the Federal Trade Commission.
"New requirements on edge services are unnecessary," the Internet Association writes in its comments to the FCC. "The FTC’s existing data privacy and security enforcement framework provides strong consumer protections, and there is no need for the FCC to impose regulations that duplicate, displace, or 'supplement' that framework."
The group also points out that the FCC recently rejected a request by advocacy group Consumer Watchdog for new regulations that would limit data collection by Facebook, Google and other Web companies.
"There is no reason to switch course," the Internet Association says. "Adopting additional data privacy and security requirements on edge services is unnecessary and would upend the current regulatory framework for such services without providing meaningful additional benefits for consumers."