Ad groups ask FCC to reconsider ISP tracking opt-in rules

The public should trust broadband companies to "self-regulate."

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If you ask most Americans which company they'd least trust with their data, the answer would probably be "Comcast," or maybe "Time Warner Cable" -- both ranked in the bottom four of Temkin's 2016 trust ratings. That's perhaps why the FCC decided to force broadband providers to get your permission before collecting private browsing data, rather than putting the onus on you to opt out. However, advertising groups have petitioned the agency to reconsider the rule, calling it "onerous" and a violation of first amendment commercial speech protections

The group said that the FCC "acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner inconsistent with Congressional intent." It also believes that industry self-regulation is enough to for "necessary consumer transparency, notice and choice for internet-based advertising." With a new President, the departure of FCC chair Tom Wheeler and Republican board member promises to revisit net neutrality rules "as soon as possible," the petition's timing is obviously well-chosen.

Injecting tracking headers ... without [users] informed consent, may abuse the privileged position that telcos occupy.

However, consumer groups that advocated for the new rules believe ISPs can't be trusted on their own. Access Now, for instance, showed that carriers like Verizon (AOL and Engadget's parent) are willing to sell consumer browsing habits to ad companies, even though you only signed up for an internet connection.

As the NYT points out, the new rules will hamper ISP's ability to build user profiles and sell targeted ads. In their petition, the ad trade associations point out that such "data-driven" marketing helps generate over $200 billion and 966,000 jobs in the US economy, and say the rule "would seriously undermine many of those benefits."

However, as Access Now points out in a paper, people pay a lot for internet services that the FCC now considers to be a public utility essential for daily life. Given that, "injecting tracking headers ... without [users] informed consent, may abuse the privileged position that telcos occupy."

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