Consumer WatchDog Considers Appeal of FCC 'Do Not Track' Rejection

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2015-11-09 Print this article Print
FCC Web Privacy

A better approach is probably to get some legislation through Congress that would support some agency, perhaps the FCC or the FTC, in a mission to regulate privacy over the Internet.

However, Simpson says that he's already tried legislation, so far to no avail. He's pinning his hopes on the FCC.

But FCC action before the various lawsuits over its reclassification authority are resolved is unlikely. I suspect that from the FCC's view, there are two significant reasons to delay any decision such as the one proposed by Consumer Watchdog.

The first reason is that the FCC might be told by the courts that it lacks the authority to reclassify the Internet so that it can regulate it as a telephone company. Obviously if that happens, the FCC will have to go back to the way things were, which would invalidate any move toward privacy regulation.

The agency will be able to get an idea how things are going in regard to reclassification when the trials start. Then, if it becomes clear that the FCC isn't getting its way, there's no point in moving forward in regard to regulating Websites for their privacy practices.

If the reclassification is upheld, then the FCC has said that it plans to create Internet privacy rules that are more appropriate than the rules designed for phone services. That's the rulemaking that the FCC announcement referred to. But that's a ways off.

For now, despite the hopes of Consumer Watchdog and other privacy organizations, I don't see any immediate chance that the FCC is going reverse its decision. While it may eventually adopt a rulemaking that will cover the "Do not track" setting on Web browsers, that's unlikely to happen while the Commission is involved in defending its actions to reclassify the Internet.

Considering the thin existing support in the Communications Act for the sort of privacy protection that Consumer Watchdog and other advocacy groups want, getting any kind of support at all seems remote, at least while the FCC is fighting for its administrative legitimacy in terms of Internet regulation. Likewise, while the FTC can take action when privacy is promised, but not delivered, if a Website isn't promising privacy, then there's not much that the FTC can do.

While Simpson has said that he's tried legislation in the past, it might be time to try again. This is one time when it might be worthwhile for privacy advocates to push for legislation that a bipartisan Congress might vote for. But short of legislation, it doesn't look like anything will or can happen to impose privacy requirements on Internet Websites.

Facebook, Google and many others are free to ignore with impunity users' requests for online privacy.



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