The Federation Communication Commission (FCC) has denied a petition seeking online privacy protections at online companies like Google and Facebook.
The petition was filed by California nonprofit Consumer Watchdog, asking the commission to require "edge providers" to honor Do Not Track requests. The group named Google, Facebook, YouTube, Pandora, Netflix and LinkedIn as examples of edge providers, which means it wants these websites to allow people to use their services without giving them their data in exchange. Currentlym even if you enable your browser's Do Not Track option to opt out of third-party tracking by advertisers and the like, websites can choose not to honor it. The petition aimed at chnaging that.
Consumer Watchdog said the denial of the petition could be a message to a federal court taking up the case of the FCC’s rulemaking power next month that it intends to narrowly make rules, but it leaves consumers unprotected at the biggest online platforms.
"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," said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director.
Consumer Watchdog wants the FCC to impose privacy rules on websites similar to the ones outlined under Section 222 of the Communications Act.
The new Section 222 rules once enacted will apply to companies like Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T and other ISPs. Ironically much of the personal data gathered by those companies, which will be regulated, is the same information gathered by companies like Google, and Facebook, whose privacy invasive practices won’t be covered.
"Consumers’ data will be protected in one place, but it will be a Wild West, anything goes atmosphere when it comes to giant Internet companies," said Simpson. "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."
Consumer Watchdog’s petition cited FCC authority under another section of the law to take immediate action to protect consumer privacy if it finds broadband is not being deployed in a timely fashion.
Because the FCC has found that concerns about Internet privacy can hinder broadband deployment, rules to protect privacy, such as requiring companies to honor Do Not Track requests, are necessary to promote improved broadband use, the nonpartisan, nonprofit group said.
Consumer Watchdog expects to take an active role in the FCC rulemaking that will create Section 222 privacy rules covering the broadband Internet access providers.