Lawmakers in Maine have proposed a law to stop internet service providers (ISPs) from selling private browsing data to advertisers, according to reports.
The bill was passed unanimously by the state’s senate by a margin of 35 to zero, and state reps passed it earlier by 96 to 45. If the bill is signed into law by Governor Janet Mills, internet providers in the state will have to get permission from users before their data can be sold. Maine has a population of about 1.3 million residents.
In 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to allow ISPs to sell browsing history, as well as personal and private data, to advertisers. This was later passed into law by Congress.
The ACLU explained the law this way: “Your internet provider sees everything you do online. Even if the website you’re visiting is encrypted, your ISP can still see the website name, how frequently you visit the website and how long you’re [there]. And, because you are a paying customer, your ISP knows your Social Security number, full legal name, address and bank account information. Linking all that information can reveal a lot about you — for example, if you are visiting a religious website or a support site for people with a particular illness.”
The ACLU also called Maine’s proposed law the “strongest” internet privacy bill anywhere in the country.
“Today, the Maine legislature did what the U.S. Congress has thus far failed to do, and voted to put consumer privacy before corporate profits,” said Oamshri Amarasingham, advocacy director at the ACLU of Maine. “Nobody should have to choose between using the internet and protecting their own data.”
“Additionally, you can choose not to use Google and Facebook (and, in the wake of privacy breaches, many people have). On the other hand, you can’t avoid ISPs if you want to use the internet. And most Mainers, especially in rural areas, do not have a choice of provider,” the ACLU said. “Finally, Google and Facebook don’t cost money; we trade our personal data to use them. But we pay ISPs — a lot — to access the internet. The ISPs that oppose LD 946 want to profit off your personal data on top of what you pay them. Imagine the phone company listening to your calls and selling personal information about you to third parties — it’s like that.”