Privacy advocates are celebrating Wednesday after members of the Maine House voted to pass one of the most sweeping internet privacy laws in the nation.
LD 946, sponsored by Sen. Shenna Bellows (D-Kennebec), would require internet service providers (or ISPs) that do business in Maine to receive their customers’ permission before selling their private information to a third party, such as advertisers.
The landmark bill passed the House 96-45 and last Thursday without a roll call in the Senate, despite objections from the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.
Ahead of the votes, the Chamber ran a series of internet ads encouraging voters to oppose LD 946. The business group argued that the bill doesn’t go far enough — a claim that proponents of the bill called “disingenuous.”
Privacy advocates including the ACLU of Maine, which Bellows used to lead, say the bill provides important protections that the federal government has thus far failed to implement. They warn that ISPs like Spectrum and Verizon collect data on every website a person visits, when they log in or out of accounts, and even some location data.
“Taken together,” the group explained in a blog post supporting the bill, “this data could paint an intimate picture of a person’s religion, medical conditions, and even their hobbies.”
The ACLU contends that this information is “increasingly being used by advertisers to discriminate against certain communities.” For example, companies “using data to decide what prices to advertise to someone, the content they should steer them to, and even the types of loans to offer them.”
This system allows ISPs to profit from selling personal data without receiving specific permission from the user.
“Nobody should have to choose between using the Internet and protecting their own data,” said Oamshri Amarasingham, advocacy director at the ACLU of Maine, in a statement following the Senate vote last week. “Lest we forget, ISPs work for us. We pay them loads of money for their services, and it is outrageous that they would turn around and sell our most private information without our consent.”
Passed with technical revisions, the House version of the bill is now being sent to the Senate for a vote on concurrence.
.@MaineChamber is paying for ads telling people to contact their legislators on privacy. Glad to hear they support internet privacy! But they seem confused about the issue, so I fixed their script for them. 🤓#YESonLD946 #mepolitics pic.twitter.com/2ui3uZrm6r
— oami amarasingham (@amarasingham) May 14, 2019
Photo via Charter Communications