You Can Make Your 'Do Not Track' Requests, But Websites Ignore Them And The FCC Does Nothing


On Nov. 6, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stated that it can do nothing to keep Internet companies like Facebook, Google and ad providers from tracking their users' data online.

Consumer Watchdog, a privacy advocacy organization, filed a petition concerning the "Do Not Track" setting with the intent to make data tracking illegal for websites and advertisers alike.

"Do Not Track" is a standard option in all web browsers and by enabling it, users signal the fact that they desire tracking systems to ignore their data. In theory, all sites that you visit while having the "Do Not Track" enabled should not track you. Far from being a mandatory action, it all depends on the willingness of the website to comply. This means that the setting communicates the users' preference, but it does not oblige the website to respect it.

The FCC's decision puzzled many users, as the Commission enforced Net Neutrality rules on Feb. 2015, aimed at providing privacy protection to consumers. In retort, FCC explained that it considers enforcing the "Do Not Track" policies as a step out of its jurisdiction.

"The Commission has been unequivocal in declaring that it has no intent to regulate edge providers," reads the ruling [pdf].

In FCC's opinion, corporations such as Twitter or Microsoft offer Internet services but not actual Internet connections, which set them apart from the pool of companies that the Commission has a warrant to regulate.

However, the privacy advocate group Consumer Watchdog has a different take on the subject.

"We believe the FCC has the authority to enforce Internet privacy protections far more broadly than they have opted to do," John Simpson, director or Consumer Watchdogs, stated.  

He further pointed out that forcing browsers or advertisers to respect the "Do Not Track" setting means not to control the web, but to offer respect and power to users.

The pressure for enforcing data privacy has been mounting for some time, and the public is aware that a "Do Not Track" law would be the beginning of a more secure and democratic Internet.

It remains to be seen if the advertisers and tech giants will be willing to cut their data mining profits to earn the users' trust.

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