Multiple Internet Service Providers Sue Maine Over Privacy Law

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Maine passed a law in 2019 that is set to take effect in July of 2020. That law will be one of the strictest pieces of consumer privacy protection legislation in the country when it goes into effect. That is to say, if it goes into effect. Four national associations that each represent a number of internet service providers (ISPs) have come together and filed a lawsuit against Main officials in an effort to block the law from going into effect. 

The law would require companies to get an official opt-in of consent from customers before that company can share or use any of their personal data. Predictably, the ISPs that would have to get that consent do not want that to happen. 

The 32-page complaint filed by these associations in the U.S. District Court in Portland contends that the law violates First Amendment protections. The complaint goes on to say that, “Maine cannot discriminate against a subset of companies that collect and use consumer data by attempting to regulate just that subset and not others,” the complaint reads. “Maine’s decision to impose unique burdens on ISPs’ speech – while ignoring the online and offline businesses that have and use the very same information and for the same and similar purposes as ISPs – represents discrimination between similarly situated speakers that is impermissible under the First Amendment.”

 Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey responded to this complaint with a written statement of his own. “If the telecom industry wishes to fight to preserve their right to exploit consumers’ personal data, which includes their physical location, the websites they visit and the content of their communications, this is a fight I am willing to have,” said Frey. 

The closest law in existence to this one that Maine is looking to enact currently exists in California. However, Maine’s law requires an ISP to obtain consent from a consumer before sharing any information, whereas California law requires consumers to opt out if they don’t want their information to be shared.

Since Maine’s law would effectively be the first of its kind, the outcome of this lawsuit will set the precedent for other states to follow in the future. This is an important case in the internet provider space, and is certainly something to keep an eye on.