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Consumer Watchdog asks FCC to impose Do Not Track on Google, Facebook

The Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules just went into effect last Friday and at least one group is jumping to take advantage of them.

Consumer Watchdog petitioned the FCC on Monday to force edge providers like Google and Facebook to honor Do Not Track requests from a consumer’s browser.

The public interest group’s move sets off what is bound to be a growing debate over the FCC’s role in protection consumer privacy.

Now that the FCC has reclassified Internet service providers as common carriers and plans to adopt the privacy provision in Title II, it’s opened up a new front in the privacy debate over how far the FCC will go in applying common carrier privacy provisions to Internet service providers.

Under the Consumer Watchdog’s proposal, any edge provider offering first-party online services must honor Do Not Track and would be prohibited from selling, sharing or transferring consumer personal information to other companies or third parties.

The debate over Do Not Track has been going on for years in Washington. All the major browsers have Do Not Track options, but companies can choose whether or not to honor them. The advertising industry, for example, has its own self-regulation program that allows consumers to opt out of targeted ads.

Consumer Watchdog argues in its petition that the FCC now has the authority to take immediate action to force not only ISPs to honor Do Not Track, but edge providers as well.

“Acting to ensure consumers’ privacy while they use the Internet is one of the immediate steps the commission should take to bolster the rate of broadband adoption,” the petition said. “As the Commission has found previously, the protection of customers’ personal information may spur consumer demand for those services, in turn ‘driving demand for broadband connections, and consequently encouraging more broadband investment and deployment’ consistent with the goals of the 1996 Act.”

Ahead of specific rule makings, the FCC recently provided guidance about how it will interpret Section 222 telling broadband providers to take “reasonable, good-faith steps” to comply with the law and employ “effective privacy protections in line with their privacy policies and core tenets of basic privacy protections.”