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Court Rules in Favor of Maine's Strict Landmark Privacy Law

July 8, 2020

United States District Judge Lance Walker ruled in favor of a landmark privacy law passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor in 2019. The law, LD 946, "An Act To Protect the Privacy of Online Customer Information," was sponsored by State Senator Shenna Bellows of Manchester and prevents broadband internet service providers operating in Maine from selling or sharing a customer's personal data without the customers permission. It was challenged in federal court on preemption and First Amendment grounds by large telecom industry organizations; the Office of the Attorney General is defending the Act.

In his ruling, which is attached, Judge Walker categorically rejected all of the industrys arguments that the Act is preempted by federal law, noting that one of their arguments was an attempt to create a conflict where none exists and that their reasoning blinks reality. The court also rejected the industrys argument that Maines privacy law is subject to the strictest scrutiny under the First Amendment. Instead, the court held that the more lenient test for regulation of commercial speech applies. As the case proceeds, the Office of the Attorney General will demonstrate that Maines law easily passes that test.

In response to the ruling, Attorney General Aaron M. Frey issued the following statement: "I enthusiastically supported Senator Bellowss bill when it was introduced because the state has a significant interest in protecting Mainers from practices which may place their personal and financial data at risk. While there will be more litigation, this initial ruling is a huge victory for Maine consumers and for our states efforts to take appropriate measures to protect their privacy. The Office of the Attorney General looks forward to continuing to vigorously defend the law. We are pleased that the District Court was persuaded by our arguments that the law is not preempted, and we are confident that the law will withstand the industrys First Amendment challenge."

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