Google, Facebook 'do not track' requests? FCC says they can keep ignoring them

US regulator rejects calls for it to force web giants to respect Do Not Track requests from consumers.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
Facebook can track your clicks, even if you try to opt-out.
Image: CNET UK
Google, Facebook, and other internet companies can continue to disregard Do Not Track requests from consumers, without intervention from the US Federal Communications Commission.

The US regulator has dismissed a petition from rights group Consumer Watchdog, calling on it to require 'edge providers' such as Google, Facebook, YouTube, Pandora, Netflix, and LinkedIn "to honor 'Do Not Track' Requests from consumers".

Browser settings can be configured to signal to websites the user doesn't want to be tracked, for example, by Facebook or online ad networks. A small number of companies, including Twitter, have agreed to accept the requests but most do not given the conflict with business models that rely on harvesting personal data.

Consumer Watchdog filed the petition in June as new net-neutrality rules under section of 222 of the Communications Act came into effect and are regulated by the FCC. Those rules also imposed new consumer privacy protections on ISPs but not on website operators.

The group argued that the FCC had the authority to regulate "information services" outside the net-neutrality portion of act, which compels it to take action when broadband isn't being deployed rapidly enough.

However, the FCC will not budge from its original stance, arguing it has "been unequivocal in declaring that it has no intent to regulate edge providers".

The FCC enforces privacy protections in Section 222 of the act on voice carriers but noted that when the act was reclassified to include ISPs, it refrained from applying to ISPs since it was not convinced they would be well suited to them.

Additionally, the FCC said it was not "regulating the internet, per se, or any internet applications or content", but only the "transmission component" of internet access services.

Consumer Watchdog director John Simpson said consumers' data will be protected in one place. "But it will be a Wild West, anything-goes atmosphere when it comes to giant internet companies," he said.

"Requiring that Do Not Track requests be honored is a simple way to give people necessary control of their information and is in no way an attempt to regulate the content of the internet."

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