Judge Upholds Maine Law Preventing ISPs From Selling Customers' Personal Data

Jul 8, 2020

A U.S. District Court judge has upheld a new Maine law that prohibits internet service providers from selling or sharing consumers’ personal data without permission.

The law that took effect on July 1 was sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Shenna Bellows, who says that many internet companies make their money by packaging and selling users’ personal data. But while consumers can opt out of using sites such as Facebook and Google, Bellows says, they can’t opt out of the companies that provide internet service.

“So remember that your internet service provider is your point of access to the internet. So they have access to everything you do online. The emails you send to friends and family members. The searches that you conduct on personal medical matters or other issues. Every transaction that you do online goes through your internet service provider,” she says.

Under Maine’s new law, these internet service providers can no longer sell this information without customer permission. Four telecom industry groups mounted a legal challenge, saying the law violates their First Amendment rights and is preempted by federal law. But in his decision, U.S. District Court Judge Lance Walker called that claim a “shoot-the-moon argument.”

Bellows says she hopes Maine’s law will serve as a national model.

Originally published 6:02 p.m. July 7, 2020.