In the wake of Facebook data privacy scandal, Maine legislators now have an opportunity to protect Mainers’ private information from profit-seeking whims of powerful telecommunications giants and internet service providers (ISPs) who may want to exploit that information without consumers’ consent.
Last year, the U.S. Congress lifted the prohibition on ISPs selling our personal data to third parties without our permission. LD 1610 would put protections back in place, prohibiting internet service providers like Time Warner who receive state subsidies from selling customers’ data without notice or consent. The measure would also prohibit ISPs from charging customers an opt-out fee to protect their data.
If Maine House and Senate adopt this bill, it will be a good step toward protecting our vulnerable online data.
The bill does not address the controversial net neutrality issue. Instead, it directs the Maine attorney general to review whether the state’s unfair trade practices law could be used to address consumer concerns following the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality last year. Following that repeal, ISPs are no longer prohibited from blocking, slowing, or otherwise harmfully discriminating against Internet content.
States have a lot of latitude in dictating how businesses operate within the boundaries of their state - especially businesses that benefit from a state’s taxpayer money. Additionally, there is a long history of states regulating how local telephone and cable companies do business within their state. As such, if passed, LD 1610 is not likely to face court challenges.
The Utilities Committee vote 7-6 “ought to pass” on the bill, sponsored by Sen. Shenna Bellows (D-Manchester). It now goes to the Senate and the House of Representatives for a vote.