“Do Not Disturb” not for websites?

In a significant ruling, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC)has rejected to force websites a petition by the Consumer Watchdog to enforce the “Donot Track” requests from individuals.

The petition had requested  that the Commission “initiate a rule making proceeding requiring ‘edge providers’ (like Google, Facebook, YouTube, Pandora, Netflix, and LinkedIn) to honor ‘Do Not Track’ Requests from consumers.”

The FCC however ruled that the current regulations meant for voice services cannot be applied to broadband internet and dismissed the petition.

Copy of Order

Some observers in the Privacy and Consumer Interest groups express concern that this will prevent online services from requiring consumers to consent to tracking in exchange for accessing web services, preventing online services from sharing personal information of users with third parties when consumers send “Do Not Track Requests”. This may also mean that websites will reject the web browser settings that send “Opt out” requests.

A counter view is that the FCC order only applies to “Transmission Services” and not “Content Services”. If this view is valid, then the content owners need to continue obtaining consent from the website visitors as they are doing at present.

We concur with the counter view since use of web services is a contract and the visitor should be given the option to either share or not share data which he considers as not essential for the service.

If however, the website wants to make it a “Dotted line contract”,  they need to highlight and draw specific attention of the user to the information sharing clauses before proceeding with the use of the services.

This may not however be practical to implement for all user and hence any prudent website owner would continue the existing practice of honouring automatic requests for opting out of any such information collection that the website wants to do and wait for an Opt-in for collecting analytics which involve identifiable personal information.


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About Vijayashankar Na

Naavi is a veteran Cyber Law specialist in India and is presently working from Bangalore as an Information Assurance Consultant. Pioneered concepts such as ITA 2008 compliance, Naavi is also the founder of Cyber Law College, a virtual Cyber Law Education institution. He now has been focusing on the projects such as Secure Digital India and Cyber Insurance
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