PORTLAND, Maine — A Maine bill receiving support in both houses of the Legislature would prevent internet service providers from selling customers' data without their permission.
LD 946 would allow customers to opt in to letting the companies that sell internet access to also sell the customers' personal information to third-party companies to create targeted ads.
The bill reflects a former national rule by the Federal Communications Commission, which prohibited the sale without notifying customers. President Trump nullified that order by executive order in 2017.
Technology expert Jarrod Maxfield said opting "in" to having your info sold is more transparent than having consumers opt "out," especially since modern internet is treated widely, and paid for, as a utility, as opposed to websites which people can choose to visit or not.
"Every single thing you do, every bit of information goes through that one source, and they have access to everything you do online," said Maxfield. "Often times many consumers are not even going to know that's an option, let alone take advantage of it if they do. Requiring someone to opt in takes away a lot of that control from the service provider and gives it back to the consumer."
Maxfield agreed that customers still have some responsibility in knowing what terms they are agreeing to.
"The consumer is always technically the one in charge, but let's be realistic, those terms and conditions -- it's just long and convoluted and most people just don't take the time to read and understand it," said Maxfield.
Opponents say state-by-state restrictions are bad policy, and that this bill would provide a false sense of security: sites that are otherwise free, like Google or Facebook, require people to agree to those terms and conditions to use the sites, which allow the sites to sell users' data.
The house amended the bill to delay its effective date until July 1, 2020 to give internet service providers time to prepare for the new rules.