The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) dismissed a petition that would have required Internet giants to let consumers opt out of having their online activity tracked.
The decision secured a win for Silicon Valley businesses that rely on monetizing reams of personal data.
The FCC said it "has been unequivocal in declaring that it has no intent to regulate edge providers," or companies that provide content and services over the Internet.
Digital privacy advocates argue consumers should be allowed to submit "Do Not Track" requests to tell a website not to collect information about their online browsing habits.
Some websites do honor "Do Not Track" requests, but doing so is largely voluntary.
The June petition, filed by the group Consumer Watchdog, sought to capitalize on the FCC's recent net neutrality protections that allowed the regulator to punish Internet service providers for violating certain privacy protections.
"It's outrageous that users of Google and Facebook , which has a billion users, won't have the same online privacy protections as AT&T and Verizon," Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, told Reuters.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the government's top consumer protection body, has advocated a universal Do Not Track mechanism since 2010.
But the World Wide Web Consortium, an international standards organization, has struggled to develop a framework for such rules. A current proposal has drawn ire from privacy groups and some U.S. lawmakers who warn the plan does not go far enough in protecting consumer rights.
Court said his group may file for reconsideration before the FCC, and that it would continue to seek Do Not Track legislation in Congress. (Reporting by Dustin Volz; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Christian Plumb)