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May 22, 2023

The Judiciary Committee Will Consider Legislation to Protect Maine People’s Most Sensitive Information in Face of Tech Industry Bill to Repeal Best-in-the-Nation Internet Privacy Law

AUGUSTA – The Maine Legislature is considering LD 1705 on Monday, May 22, to protect Mainers’ privacy by letting people choose if they want to share their information and ensuring that information is stored safely and used appropriately. The bill is one of the ACLU of Maine’s four priority bills for the 2023 legislative session. Lawmakers are considering the legislation at the same time as LD 1973, a bill that would repeal Maine’s internet privacy law and mimics legislation written directly by Big Tech corporations that has been passed in other states.

ACLU of Maine Policy Director Meagan Sway will testify in support of LD 1705 and against LD 1973 before the Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary at 10AM, Monday, May 22, in State House room 438.

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Private companies—most often massive out of state corporations—are currently free to exploit people’s biometric identifiers, such as their voices, facial features, and fingerprints, to track their movements and profit from their most personal information. In the absence of sensible protections, Maine’s people are subjected to having their most sensitive information used for profit, discrimination against LGBTQ people and people of color, and more.

Despite the potential progress for privacy with LD 1705, the committee will also consider LD 1973. The legislation would repeal Maine’s 2019 internet service provider (ISP) law that was the first of its kind and remains the strongest in the nation. It is crucial to keep Maine’s ISP law in place because internet service providers see our every online keystroke.

LD 1973 would also force consumers to opt out of being tracked in a limited number of categories, placing the burden entirely on the consumer to wade through legal agreements with multiple service providers to exercise their privacy rights. This would also mean the current exploitative data practices of the largest surveillance companies, such as Facebook and Google, would remain mostly untouched.

Last, and among several other provisions, LD 1973 would allow companies to discriminate against people who choose to utilize the limited privacy protections allowed under the law, fail to meaningfully restrict uses of personal information that harm civil rights, and include particularly weak enforcement provisions.

“Big Tech uses our bodies—including our faces, voices, and fingerprints—to track our every move and learn some of our most personal details, all so they can make a profit,” said ACLU of Maine Policy Director Meagan Sway. “Mainers deserve to choose what information they share, if any at all, and know that the information they do share is safely stored and used only as intended. The power should rest with the people, not corporations.”

Sway continued, saying, “privacy isn’t about secrecy. It’s about control. Governments, individuals, and companies can purchase information collected about Maine consumers, tracking faces at protests, political rallies, places of worship, family planning clinics, and more. Maine lawmakers have led the country in protecting people’s privacy. They could continue that work today, rather than passing the same bills written by and for Big Tech that have been enacted into law in some other states.”

Read the testimony on LD 1705 and LD 1973 in the PDFs below or here and here.