Group Asks FCC to Make Web Services Honor ‘Do Not Track’ Requests

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A consumer group on Monday asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to force web service providers like Google to honor users’ requests that their information not be collected and sold.

The group, Consumer Watchdog, said in its petition that “edge providers,” or companies that provide services over the Internet, should follow “Do Not Track” requests from users.

Currently, a user can tell their browser to send websites they access a Do Not Track request. They are largely symbolic because most websites don’t honor the requests.

The Consumer Watchdog filing comes days after the FCC’s net neutrality order went into effect. Under the new rules, the FCC is allowed to punish Internet providers for privacy violations under Section 222 of the Communications Act — which the consumer group cited in Monday’s filing. Edge providers differ from the broadband providers subject to the net neutrality order.

“Consumers’ privacy concerns about the Internet extend far beyond the broadband providers who are impacted by Section 222,” they wrote. “Many consumers are as concerned — or perhaps even more worried — about the online tracking and data collection practices of edge providers.”

Consumer Watchdog argued in their petition that ordering companies like Google and YouTube to honor Do Not Track requests would increase trust in the Internet and thus enable greater broadband adaptation.

“A rule requiring that Do Not Track signals be honored would undoubtedly put to rest many consumers’ privacy concerns about the Internet. It would certainly bolster broadband deployment and use,” the group wrote.

Under the group’s proposed rule, certain web services would not be able to sell the personal data of their users. They also would not be able to make users consent to tracking before they could start using a website or service.

Other services would be prohibited from tracking any personal information associated with users.

The fight over privacy under the net neutrality order is likely to heat up in the coming months. The FCC plans to enforce Section 222 against broadband companies, but has yet to make rules specific to Internet providers.

That has led the industry to claim that the FCC is sowing uncertainty over the new rules. The commission says providers won’t face enforcement actions if they act in good faith.

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