Maine passes law preventing ISPs from selling browsing data without consent

Good news!

Maine lawmakers have passed a bill that will prevent internet providers from selling consumers’ private internet data to advertisers.

The state’s senate unanimously passed the bill 35-0 on Thursday following an earlier vote by state representatives 96-45 in favor of the bill.

The bill, if signed into law by state governor Janet Mills, will force the national and smaller regional internet providers operating in the state to first obtain permission from residents before their data can be sold or passed on to advertisers or other third parties.

Maine has about 1.3 million residents.

The Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission voted in 2017 to allow internet providers to sell customers’ private and personal internet data and browsing histories — including which websites a user visits and for how long — to advertisers for the biggest buck. Congress later passed the measure into law.

At the time, the ACLU explained how this rule change affected ordinary Americans:

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 for. 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.

In its latest remarks, the ACLU — which along with the Open Technology Institute and New America helped to draft the legislation — praised lawmakers for passing the bill, calling it the “strongest” internet privacy bill of any state.

“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, in  a statement.

“Nobody should have to choose between using the internet and protecting their own data,” she said.

Update on June 6: Maine governor Janet Mills has signed the bill into law. In a tweet, she said state residents can now be assured that their private data “can’t be bought or sold by their internet service providers without their express approval.”

Updated with statement from Gov. Janet Mills.