Maine passes bill prohibiting ISPs from selling customer data without consent

Maine passes bill prohibiting ISPs from selling customer data without consent 1
Why it matters: With the FCC currently less than concerned with consumer privacy and net neutrality, it’s important for states to adopt their own measures. The state of Maine has passed a very strongly worded bill that highlights privacy before profit, and it could set a precedent for other states to follow. While the bill isn’t perfect, choosing to focus on ISPs and containing glaring omissions for the likes of Google and Facebook, it’s an essential first step.

Internet service providers have a tendency to slurp user data, and since federal protections were reversed in 2017, ISPs are largely free to monetize customer browsing data without so much as consent or even an opt-out. The state of Maine aims to change that with the passage of a new bill.

The state’s Senate voted unanimously to pass the bill, after the bill found similar favor in the state House. The bill, LD 946, requires ISPs to obtain consent before collecting, disclosing, selling or permitting access to customer information. LD 946 outlines exceptions where ISPs can use customer information without consent, such as honoring a court order or in case of emergency services.

According to the text of the bill, personal information includes browsing history, application usage, and geolocation data — the latter of which is at the center of a class-action lawsuit against major wireless carriers. The legislation also outlines an exhaustive list of information considered personally identifying that a service provider wouldn’t be allowed to touch without consent.

The bill reads that ISPs cannot refuse service to or otherwise penalize a customer for withholding consent. Additionally, ISPs will not be permitted to provide customers with discounts for their consent. The bill’s language echoes a similar theme to that of the one passed in California last year, in that states are fed up with the sweeping disregard and fleeting lip service from ISPs regarding consumer privacy.

The bill is currently awaiting a signature from Governor Janet Mills before being enacted into law.

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