The FCC has rejected the “Do Not Track” petition which called for a ban to third-party tracking and advocated online privacy, it has recently been reported.
Representatives of the Federal Communications Commission have come to the conclusion that they wouldn’t be stopping companies such as Facebook or Google from monitoring online visitors, and from using customer information for monetary gain.
The proposal to introduce this measure had been made in June by California-based Consumer Watchdog, a non-profit consumer education and advocacy organization.
The “Do Not Track” setting can be incorporated in most browsers, as a way to reduce the amount of data collected and transmitted to advertisers and other companies while the user is surfing the web.
By enabling this feature, a HTTP header is sent to the server, and users can express their decision to opt out of being monitored by advertisers, data analytics services or social platforms.
However, in its current form, the setting doesn’t ensure the same level of protection as encryption tools. It is only viewed as a preference of the visitor, and can be bypassed by some websites wishing to make user data available to third parties.
Although its developers have been striving to make this functionality a standard element in the World Wide Web Consortium, numerous online companies have failed to support the initiative, although initially some had claimed they would be among its backers.
The recent petition had aimed to make the “Do not track” requirement issued by the visitor compulsory for websites, and to outlaw the practice of bypassing this setting.
Upon reviewing the proposal, the FCC has pointed out that the scope of its jurisdiction regarding net neutrality doesn’t extend to edge providers, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Netflix or Google.
These companies make Internet services available to users, but aren’t responsible for Internet connectivity, so their activity can’t be restricted in any way by the commission.
Therefore, the petition formulated by Consumer Watchdog can’t be taken into account by this regulatory body, officials have announced on Friday, November 6.
In response, representatives of the customer advocacy organization have expressed their disappointment with the FCC’s decision. According to them, the commission does possess the authority to impose measures providing Internet users with extra protection of their privacy.
Just because it has chosen not to exercise this right doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be capable to do so in the future, provided that it showed enough receptivity.
John Simpson, the NGO’s Private Project director, has also said that giving heed to requests made by users regarding the way their online activity is being tracked should be considered a priority nowadays.
This initiative shouldn’t be viewed as an effort to alter the content displayed by websites, but simply as an attempt to provide online visitors with extra control of their personal information and browsing history.
Given that the petition has failed to gain the required traction, for now the “Do not track” setting will continue to function as a privacy tool which some sites will choose to ignore.
Therefore, it appears that Silicon Valley companies have emerged victorious in this battle, and will still be able to aggregate user data as before, irrespective of the actual preferences specified by individuals.
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