Internet service providers drop challenge of one of the nation’s strictest privacy laws

Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey said the state’s privacy law held up despite the efforts of an “army of industry lawyers organized against us.

SHARE Internet service providers drop challenge of one of the nation’s strictest privacy laws
Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows was a state senator when she proposed what has become one of the strictest Internet privacy laws in the United States.

Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows was a state senator when she proposed what has become one of the strictest Internet privacy laws in the United States.

Matthew Hinton / AP

PORTLAND, Maine — One of the strictest Internet privacy laws in the United States has withstood a legal challenge, as a group of telecommunication providers has dropped its bid to overturn the state standard in Maine.

Maine created one of the toughest rules in the nation for Internet service providers in 2020 when it began enforcing an “opt-in” web privacy standard. The law stops the service providers from using, disclosing, selling or providing access to customers’ personal information without permission.

Industry associations sued, saying the new law violated their First Amendment rights. A federal judge rejected that challenge, but the legal wrangling continued until Sept. 2, when the groups, which include the country’s biggest telecommunications providers, filed to dismiss the lawsuit.

Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey said the state’s privacy law held up despite the efforts of an “army of industry lawyers organized against us.

“Maine’s Legislature wisely sought to protect Maine residents by restricting the disclosure and use of their most private and personal information,” said Frey, who said that now other states can follow Maine’s lead.

The Maine law was proposed by then-Democratic state Sen. Shenna Bellows, who’s now Maine’s secretary of state, in 2019. The law stemmed from a Maine effort to bring back rules implemented during President Barack Obama’s tenure that were repealed by Congress during President Donald Trump’s term.

The industry plaintiffs who sued have now agreed to reimburse Maine for more than $55,000 in costs incurred defending the law, Frey said.

Maine also has a privacy law that regulates the use of facial recognition technology. That law, which took effect last year, also has been cited as the strictest of its kind in the United States.

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