FCC can’t enforce “Do Not Track” requests online when it comes to websites. The Federal Communications Commission just dismissed a petition which asked for new requirements to be imposed on companies such as Facebook and Google.
The petition, filed by Consumer Watchdog, asked that the FCC start a rulemaking procedure that would impose new regulations on ‘edge providers’ in order to make them honor customer’s “Do Not Track” requests. This targets websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube , Netflix and Google.
This new set of rules proposed by the group would ensure that online services don’t require consumers to consent to tracking in exchange for access to web services. It would also prevent devices from sharing user’s personal information with third parties when “Do Not Track” requests had been sent by the respective users.
As things stand at the moment, when a consumer enables his or her Do Not Track setting in their browser, a HTTP header is automatically sent to the websites they visit requesting to opt out of third party-tracking lead by social platforms, analytics services or advertising networks. Unfortunately, most Do Not Track requests are ignore, although a few companies have committed to making sure they are honored.
Consumer Watchdog petitioned the FCC to use the authority it has to make sure that these requests are being honored, citing Title I and Section 706 which gives it the authority to regulate “information services”. While the FCC wants to impose new privacy rules on Internet service providers, the privacy part of the Title II common carrier regulations that it wants to use, under Section 222 of the Communications Act, to impose the new rules on internet providers, does not apply to websites.
This means that the FCC can regulate what private user information broadband internet providers share with third parties, but it cannot impose restrictions on websites or internet content.
The FCC dismissed the petition without addressing whether it has the authority to impose the rules under either Title I or Section 706 or not. It only noted that when it reclassified broadband internet as a common carrier service, it did not intend to regulate any internet content, websites or applications.
The commission explained that reclassifying broadband Internet access services as common carrier services meant that they would only be involved in supervising the transmission component of the internet access service. It also explained that the petition could be inconsistent with the commission’s articulation of the effects of reclassification and its plans for enforcing new privacy rules that only target broadband providers.
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