Maine's new ISP privacy law has both California and New York beat

The Great State of Maine, having jettisoned its far-right lunatic "government" and replaced it with a responsive, progressive, evidence-based one, is now set to pass the nation's most stringent ISP privacy law, going further than both New York and California.

The new law restores the Obama-era ISP privacy protections that Trump's FCC chair Ajit Pai canceled before they could go into effect: rules that ban your ISPs from selling or sharing or exploiting the about your internet use without your explicit consent (this is what California's law does, too, but in California, it's an opt-out rule and in Maine, it's opt-in, and literally no one ever wanted to opt in to having their phone company spy on them and then sell the information they glean thereby).

The telcoms lobby, US Telecom, has objected on the ground that the Maine law will create a "patchwork" and consumers won't know what the rules are, because in US Telecom land, consumers are constantly buying internet connections in different states and relying on the rules from the last state to be in effect.

(The fact that US Telecom is objecting to an opt-in rule really says it all: if they were convinced that their customers wanted to be spied on by their ISPs, then an opt-in would just be a small hurdle en route to providing their customers exactly what they want)

The Maine law is a dare to both the FCC and Congress. Under Obama, FCC chairman Ajit Pai (then a mere commissioner) argued that the FCC could not tell states what rules the could and could not set for their ISPs (Pai, a former Verizon exec, wanted states to continue their practice of banning cities from setting up municipal broadband networks, while Obama's FCC chair Tom Wheeler [a former Comcast exec!] wanted to ban the practice). Now, as FCC Chairman, Pai has argued that states can't override FCC regs, in order to prevent states from restoring the Net Neutrality rules he destroyed through a corrupt process.

As to Congress: they keep mooting a federal privacy law, but pulling back from the brink. The Democratic Congress know they'll get slaughtered by their base if they cave to the ISP lobby, but they're absolutely beholden to the lobby for their campaign contributions and with the 2020 elections around the corner, they're reluctant to stir the pot.

But as states like Maine do things to wound the telcoms lobby, the lobby itself might start to demand a federal rule that protects them from responsive, non-corrupt state-houses, and Congress is a good place to start when you're seeking a corrupt, biddable alternative.

The law's effects are likely to have implications far beyond Maine's borders. The law could provide a template for other states looking to draft data privacy rules and in Washington, D.C., where Congress is grappling with its own efforts to draft the first federal privacy law.

Maine shakes up debate with tough internet privacy law [Maggie Miller/The Hill]

(via Naked Capitalism)

(Image: Jeff Gunn, CC-BY)