Mainers’ data privacy is once again set to be a focal point for lawmakers in Augusta.
Next Wednesday, members of the Maine State Legislature’s Judiciary Committee are scheduled to hold work sessions for a number of bills related to data privacy.
On the docket for the morning session are LD 1056 and LD 1576, a pair of bills that were marked up earlier this fall.
LD 1056 — An Act Restricting State Assistance in Federal Collection of Personal Electronic Data and Metadata — was introduced by Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin) and aims to prevent Maine officials from effectively circumventing state law in the name of federal collaboration.
LD 1576 — An Act to Update the Laws Governing Electronic Device Information as Evidence — was introduced by Rep. Maggie O’Neil (D-Saco) and is geared toward strengthening Mainers’ existing Fourth Amendment protections.
These two bills were the subject of a prior work session held in late September.
Although introduced last session, both bills were carried over to allow legislators to work with stakeholders to ensure that the best possible version of the legislation is brought before the chambers.
On the one hand, data privacy advocates have argued in favor of these bills, as they would make it more difficult for Mainers’ private electronic information to be collected and used without their knowledge or consent.
On the other hand, law enforcement officials have come out in opposition to these measure, citing concerns that they would essentially tie their hands during the investigative process and hinder their ability to do their jobs effectively.
The second series of bills that will be the subject of a work session next Wednesday are all centered around the protection of Mainers’ sensitive electronic data with relation to third-party companies, like internet service providers.
Two of these bills — LD 1977 and LD 1705 — were the subject of a public hearing and work session, respectively, that was held mid-October.
LD 1977 — An Act to Create the Data Privacy and Protection Act — was introduced by Rep. O’Neil and aims to enact an entirely new section of law geared specifically toward protecting Mainers’ data privacy.
The proposed Data Privacy and Protection Act is comprised of three broad sections — prohibitions of particular actions, prohibitions against “retaliation” for the exercise of one’s data privacy rights, and requirements that data privacy policies be adopted by the relevant organizations.
LD 1705 — An Act to Give Consumers Control over Sensitive Personal Data by Requiring Consumer Consent Prior to Collection of Data — was also introduced by O’Neil and is more narrowly tailored at protecting Mainers’ biometric data.
The proposed law would require private entities in possession of individuals’ biometric information to adopt policies concerning a retention schedule for the data, as well as guidelines for the eventual permanent destruction of the data.
It would also require entities to obtain informed, written consent from users before collecting any of their biometric data. Entities would not be allowed to penalize users who refused to provide this consent.
The other two bills that will be discussed at next Wednesday’s work session are LD 1902 and LD 1973.
This legislation would establish “consumer rights with regard to consumer health data and defines obligations of regulated entities that collect, use and share consumer health data.”
It also explicitly prohibits the sale of consumer data, as well as the establishment of a geofence around certain healthcare facilities.
A geofence is a virtual perimeter around a physical, real-world location that allows companies to send targeted messages, advertisements, or notifications to consumers within its boundaries.
For example, a prescription drug company could use a geofence to place advertising on the smartphones of people sitting in a hospital waiting room.
LD 1973 — An Act to Enact the Maine Consumer Privacy Act — was introduced by Sen. Lisa Keim (R-Oxford) and would create a new section of state law titled the “Maine Consumer Privacy Act.”
This legislation would require that companies allow users to opt-in to data collection for the purpose of targeted advertising and that they be transparent about what data they collect about users, as well as what is done with it.
Also required by this legislation would be the deletion of all consumer data that has been collected for the purposes of targeted advertising by July 1, 2025 unless users have opted-in to its collection.
While all these bills are all geared toward achieving the same fundamental goal of improving Mainers’ digital privacy, there are a number differences — including scope — that set them apart from each other.
Whereas LD 1973 and LD 1977 are far more general in terms of the data privacy protections they seek to enact, the LD 1902 and LD 1705 are aimed at specific types of data and their usage.
Consequently, each of these bills would have a distinctly different impact on the legal landscape in Maine.
During the second of next week’s two work sessions — for which all of these bills have been grouped together — it is likely that these distinctions will play a key role in the legislators’ debate and conversation.
Some of those who have offered testimony on these bills have expressed support for the more specific of the measures while opposing the more wide-reaching attempts to establish blanket data-privacy regulations.
Others focused on the choice that exists between the two broader data privacy bills up for consideration — LD 1973 and LD 1977.
Unlike public hearings, which primarily give members of the public and organizational representatives a chance to make their voices heard on issues, work sessions are aimed at allowing legislators time to parse through the nuances of the legislation before them.
Therefore, next Wednesday’s meeting is likely to give legislators on the Judiciary Committee the opportunity to dig into the similarities and differences between these bills and to discern their recommendations for these measures going forward.
The first work session is scheduled to begin at 10am, while the second is slated to start at 1pm.
Both work sessions will be held on Wednesday, November 8 at the State House in Room 438. The proceedings can also be streamed live online here.