On the Washington Examiner.
Google, Facebook and other tech giants should remain free to spy on you, regulators ruled on Friday.
A petition filed with the Federal Communications Commission by the privacy group Consumer Watchdog asked that such websites be forced to respect consumer requests not to have their online activity tracked. The FCC dismissed the petition, stating that it has been "unequivocal in declaring that it has no intent to regulate edge providers."
The FCC voted to reclassify Internet service providers as Title II utilities this year, placing them under laws codified by the Communications Act of 1934 and Telecommunications Act of 1996. Petitioners cited privacy provisions applicable under those laws in making their case, but the FCC suggested it was not ready to apply those provisions to websites until it held a separate rulemaking process.
In a statement, Consumer Watchdog said the privacy provisions "apply to companies like Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T and other ISPs." However, the group said, "much of the personal data gathered by those companies, which will be regulated, is the same information gathered by companies like Google, and Facebook, whose privacy invasive practices won't be covered."
"Consumer Watchdog expects to take an active role in the FCC rulemaking that will create … privacy rules covering the broadband Internet access providers," the group added.
In passing Title II regulations, Democratic members of the commission promised that the rules would not apply to "edge providers," which include websites, while opponents of the regulations warned that those members would eventually go back on their word. As a result, the premise of Consumer Watchdog's case is a highly contentious one, a fact the group has not acknowledged.
Officials in the United Kingdom are taking a more direct approach to quashing demands from privacy advocates. A proposal circulating among the country's lawmakers would require companies to retain Internet connection records for 12 months, and provide access to those records to law enforcement officials without a warrant.