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FCC refuses to force websites to honor Do Not Track requests

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The FCC has dismissed a petition 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. See, 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. If the petition passed, it would have changed that.

According to Ars Technica, Consumer Watchdog wants the FCC to impose privacy rules on websites similar to the ones outlined under Section 222 of the Communications Act. When the FCC was hashing out the details of broadband reclassification into a public utility, that section requiring internet service providers to protect subscribers' data originally made it into the list of provisions to impose.

The group wrote in its petition:

Many consumers are as concerned -- or perhaps even more worried -- about the online tracking and data collection practices of edge providers. Because activities by edge providers pose the same threat to widespread broadband adoption as any privacy practice of broadband Internet access service providers, the Commission should, in addition to the CPNI rules it intends to adopt, promulgate rules protecting the unauthorized use of consumers' personal information by requiring edge providers to honor "Do Not Track" Requests.

However, as the agency explained in its response, it decided not to adopt Section 222 temporarily while it figures out how to apply it to internet service providers. Or, in the FCC's own words, "pending adoption of rules to govern broadband Internet access service in a separate rulemaking proceeding." It also clarified that it's not "regulating the Internet, per se, or any Internet applications or content" by reclassifying broadband.

[Image credit: Getty/William Andrew]

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