Maine’s Internet Privacy Law Survives Early Challenge

Federal court recognizes states can regulate ISP data collection consistent with the First Amendment

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
July 7, 2020 3:30 pm

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PORTLAND – In an early victory, a federal court today rejected an effort by internet service providers (ISPs) to strike down Maine’s groundbreaking internet privacy law, which requires ISPs to get approval from customers before selling or using their personal information.

District Court Judge Lance Walker dismissed challenges from a group of ISP companies, which had argued that Maine’s law conflicted with federal law. Judge Walker also declined to hold that the law violates the First Amendment at this stage of the case.

“This is a victory for Mainers and for other states that want to follow Maine’s example and protect internet users from the prying eyes of ISPs” said Zach Heiden, legal director for the ACLU of Maine, which filed a friend of the court brief in the lawsuit, along with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Center for Democracy and Technology, and ACLU’s national office. “Today’s judgment recognizes that states are uniquely positioned to legislate and protect the digital privacy of their residents.”

Maine was the first state in the nation to require ISPs to get customers’ consent before the companies could use, disclose or sell customers’ internet data. The law also protects customers who refuse to consent to the use of their data.

“Our use of the Internet reveals deeply private information about us, and Maine’s law simply puts decisions regarding how that digital data is used back in our hands,” said Vera Eidelman, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “ISPs are uniquely positioned to collect information about us, and have a proven track record of privacy-invasive practices. Laws ensuring that they cannot unilaterally use and sell our data without our consent do not violate the First Amendment.”

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