For better or for worse, there are few who could deny that the emergence of the internet has transformed the world around us. It has brought about rapid and significant changes to the way we work, communicate with one another and perform daily tasks.

These changes have led to improvements in quality of life for a great many of us. Advances in telemedicine, for example, make the delivery of healthcare services easier for those who are unable to go see a doctor. Being able to use credit cards or conduct banking transactions online has made it easier to do business. And many colleges now offer online or partially online courses to allow students who may have to work or raise children during normal school hours an opportunity to earn their degrees.

However, with these improvements come a whole new set of challenges. Protecting the privacy of information shared online — be it banking information, credit card numbers, social security numbers, browsing history or anything else — is chief among these challenges. The internet has become home to all manner of ill-intentioned folks looking to get access to your personal information for their benefit.

This kind of behavior might be expected from a common crook, but you shouldn’t expect it from the company that provides your internet service. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

These companies have access to everything you do on the internet, and increasingly, there is a financial incentive for them to sell that information to third parties who could use it for whatever purpose they see fit. Often it is to “target” advertisements that you see when you’re browsing the internet, to make them more appealing to you.

I firmly believe that your information belongs to you, and that’s why I voted in support of my colleague Sen. Shenna Bellows’ bill to prohibit internet service providers from collecting your information and selling it to third parties without your consent. The bill also requires these companies to take steps to safeguard your information online from others who may try to access it for nefarious purposes.

This bill is supported by strong majorities in both parties and was signed into law by the governor for good reason.

Just as the internet has drastically changed the world around us, so too has it become an inextricable part of that world. Almost any job today requires some level of internet usage, and many require quite a bit. We also are seeing “smart,” i.e. internet-connected, technology, such as speakers, appliances and security systems, becoming more and more common. Having a security camera in your house that is internet-connected offers a whole new level of home security, but it also raises huge privacy concerns. It’s important that we take steps to curb these potential abuses.

Maine-based internet service provider GWI agrees. At a public hearing on Sen. Bellows’ bill, GWI CEO Fletcher Kittredge testified that, “for Maine’s ISPs, the value of the law would far outweigh the regulatory cost. All Maine citizens would benefit from having their privacy protected.” He’s right.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns, send me an email at [email protected] or call my office at (207) 287-1515. Remember, I work for you.

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