State Sen. Susan Deschambault

We’ve all wondered, what happens with our information online? We’ve heard about the Russians hacking social media accounts. It seems like every few months another scandal erupts about a credit card company whose customers’ information has been compromised. And don’t get me started about the rise of voice-controlled speakers that people have started to buy for their homes.

In a world of an ever-growing reliance on technology and the internet to do business, take care of our families and simply be active members of our communities, we need to make sure that our rights to privacy are upheld.

Currently, those rights are in jeopardy. The Federal Communications Commission created baseline privacy rules related to internet service providers’ collection, use and sale of private customer information. U.S. Congress voted to overturn those rules in 2017. Now, internet service providers (ISPs) have free rein to make money off our private information, whether that means our social security information, data about our demographics or even our website history. Some ways this works is that they sell our information to other companies or advertisers who are able to target us to buy specific things.

We are already paying our ISPs to access to the internet. They don’t get to profit off our personal, private information as well. That is not part of the deal.

A colleague of mine, Sen. Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester, has sponsored a bill LD 946, “An Act To Protect the Privacy of Online Customer Information,” that bans internet service providers from using, selling, disclosing or in some way granting access to customers’ personal information in the state of Maine. Simply put, this bill protects our privacy online. It has received widespread support from the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine and technology law and policy experts.

Maybe most importantly, however, is that LD 946 has received support from an internet service provider from Maine. GWI was started by Arundel native Fletcher Kittredge, and his company is based out of Biddeford. Kitteredge, the CEO of GWI, testified in support of this bill at the State House recently. GWI supports this bill because it protects the rights of their customers and coincides with the company’s goals of valuing data privacy, which are issues that Kitteredge greatly respects.

Thankfully, in many areas of York County, we have multiple options for what company we buy our internet access from. But that is not the case for many other Mainers, especially those who live in rural areas. Imagine if ISPs prevented people from accessing the internet unless they waived their right to protect their personal information. That just doesn’t seem right.

LD 946 is the bill we need to ensure that internet users and their families are protected and not taken advantage of by big and nationwide broadband internet service providers. I’m grateful that my colleague Sen. Bellows is leading the charge on protecting our privacy rights, and I’ve supported it every step of the way.

“This bill has been passed in the Legislature and was signed by the governor into law this past week. It will make Maine a pioneer of consumer privacy.”

— State Sen. Susan Deschambault, D-Biddeford, represents Senate District 32, which includes Alfred, Arundel, Biddeford, Dayton, Kennebunkport and Lyman.

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