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Consumer Advocates Celebrate Maine Gov. Janet Mills’ Signing of Online Customer Privacy Act

— June 12, 2019

The bill, passed one year after California tackled the sale of consumer information by ISPs, is even stricter than its inspiration.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed an extensive and strict virtual privacy bill on Thursday, banning internet service providers from selling or distributing consumer data without obtaining individual consent.

Entitled the Act to Protect the Privacy of Online Customer Information, the law prohibits ISPs from discriminating against or refusing to provide service to persons who want their data protected. It’d also stop telecommunications companies from offering discounts and other incentives to customers who do share their data.

The law, writes The Hill, is due to take effect on July 1st, 2020.

Last year, California passed its own strict digital privacy law—but Maine’s, suggests The Hill, appears stronger. That’s because California legislation gives consumers the ability to tell their ISPs to stop selling or sharing their data, whereas Maine’s makes an opt-out automatic.

Mills, a Democrat, said the act is just “common sense.”

“Main people value their privacy, online and off,” she said.

“The internet is a powerful tool, and as it becomes increasingly intertwined with our lives, it is appropriate to take steps to protect the personal information and privacy of Maine people,” Mills said. “With this common-sense law, Maine people can access the internet with the knowledge and comfort that their personal information cannot be bought or sold by their ISPs without their express approval.”

The Hill adds that the bill passed the state senate unanimously. In addition to winning over local lawmakers, the move has also been praised by the American Civil Liberties Union and consumer advocates.

“Today, the Maine legislature did what the U.S. Congress has thus far failed to do and voted to put consumer privacy before corporate profits,” said ACLU-Maine advocacy director Oamshri Amarasingham.

“Nobody should have to choose between using the internet and protecting their own data,” Amarasingham added.

The ACLU has, in the past, been critical of the U.S. government for letting ISPs and Big Data regulate themselves. The organization, writes Tech Crunch, particularly condemned the Federal Communication Commission’s 2017 decision to let internet service providers trade, sell and share individual internet users’ private information—including visited websites and the length of time spent on each—to and with advertisers.

Gigi Sohn, an FCC advisor under former President Barack Obama, applauded Maine for filling in gaps left empty by the federal government.

“The bipartisan passage of Maine’s broadband privacy bill demonstrates that when legislators listen to their constituents rather than big corporations, the public wins,” Sohn said. “The cable and broadband industry sent a parade of high-powered and highly-paid Washington, D.C.-based lawyers to August in an effort to defeat this bill, using the same arguments they used to kill the FCC’s sensible and popular 2016 broadband privacy rules.”

“When the federal government stands down, states must step up, and that is what Maine has done here,” Sohn added.

The act’s sponsor, Sen. Shenna Bellows (D), said the law makes Maine “first and best in the nation in protecting consumer privacy online.”

Bellows also plans to introduce more legislation geared toward protecting consumers from Silicon Valley giants, including the likes of Facebook and Google.


Maine governor signs bill banning internet providers from selling consumer data without consent

Maine passes law preventing ISPs from selling browsing data without consent

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