The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced this week that it will not force companies like Facebook to stop tracking users online. The commission had been petitioned this summer by the Consumer Watchdog activist group to make “Do Not Track” browser settings illegal for companies to ignore.
As of right now, marking a “Do Not Track” option is merely a preference for users, but it does not actually prevent websites from tracking you. Some companies honor the request voluntarily, but many more do not. After all, consumer data is big-time business.
To make matters more complicated, the FCC instituted new net neutrality rules this summer that only allow it to regulate Internet service providers. The group has helped fight data breaches and other privacy issues with big companies like Cox Communications and AT&T, but so far it has ruled that actual websites “fall outside of its jurisdiction.” However, Consumer Watchdog believes that the FCC could be doing more.
“We believe the FCC has the authority to enforce Internet privacy protections far more broadly than they have opted to do and are obviously disappointed by this decision,” said the group’s Privacy Project director John Simpson. “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.”