The Federal Communications Commission won’t require companies like Google and Facebook to honor “Do Not Track” requests sent by users, it said on Friday.
The agency’s dismissed a petition from Consumer Watchdog asking that they force so-called “edge providers,” which are companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook, to abide by the requests.
Users can tell their browser to ask websites not to track them. Though the feature is included in all three major web browsers, websites are not required to follow them.
Honoring the requests, the group argued, would increase the trust consumers have in their Internet service and encourage more people to use broadband.
The group’s petition also made reference to the FCC’s controversial net neutrality rules, which reclassified Internet service providers as utilities and therefore subjected them to privacy regulation included in the bedrock Communications Act. The FCC is waiting to impose the rules, which were originally developed to cover phone service, until it can develop new regulations for Internet providers.
They will be crafted for Internet service providers, rather than the edge services that are central to the Consumer Watchdog petition. But the group said that it was important for the FCC to eximine the web services as well.
“Consumers’ privacy concerns about the Internet extend far beyond the broadband providers who are impacted by Section 222,” the group said in its petition. “Many consumers are as concerned – or perhaps even more worried – about the online tracking and data collection practices of edge providers.”
In its response, the commission’s wireline bureau suggested that connection was tenuous and that the request is “inconsistent with the Commission’s articulation of the effect of its reclassification of [broadband Internet access services] and the scope of the privacy practices it stated that it intends to address pursuant to that reclassification.”
The consumer group expressed dismay at the FCC’s decision in a statement.
“It’s outrageous that Google and Facebook will not have to protect our private information in the same way that AT&T and Verizon will have to under pending FCC rules,” said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, in a statement.
Court said in a phone interview that the group would ask the commission to reconsider the request.
He said he believed that the decision was designed to demonstrate to a federal court considering the legality of the net neutrality rules that the agency believed in narrowly using its authority. He also said he hoped that the petition and decision could push Congress to act on the issue.