One of the strictest Internet privacy laws in the United States has withstood a legal challenge as a group of telecommunications providers dropped its bid to overturn a Maine standard.
In 2020, Maine created one of the nation’s toughest rules for internet service providers when it began implementing a website privacy standard. The law prohibits service providers from using, disclosing, selling or providing access to customers’ personal information without permission.
Industry associations immediately sued, saying the new law violated their First Amendment rights. A federal judge rejected that challenge, but legal battles continued.
The groups, which include the nation’s largest telecommunications providers, filed to dismiss the lawsuit on Sept. 2, Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey said. Frey said the state’s privacy law has held up despite the efforts of an army of industry lawyers organized against us, and now other states can follow Maine’s example.
The Maine Legislature wisely sought to protect Maine residents by limiting the disclosure and use of their most private and personal information,” Frey said.
The Maine Legislature passed a bill proposed by former Democratic Sen. Shanna Bellows, who is now Maine’s secretary of state, in 2019. The ISPs sued in February 2020, and Maine attorneys have since defended the law in court. The proposal stems from Maine’s efforts to roll back rules enacted under President Barack Obama that were repealed by Congress during President Donald Trump’s tenure.
The plaintiffs have agreed to reimburse the state of Maine more than $55,000 in costs incurred in defending the law, Frey said.
Supporters of Maine’s law include the ACLU of Maine, which filed a lawsuit in favor of keeping the law on the books. The ACLU said in court filings that the law was too narrow to directly advance Maine’s essential interests in protecting consumer privacy, freedom of expression and safety.
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills also defended the law as common sense.
Maine also has another privacy law that governs the use of facial recognition technology. This law, which came into force last year, is also called the strictest of its kind in the United States.
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