The American Civil Liberties Union of Maine has filed a court brief in support of Maine’s recently enacted online privacy protection law, arguing that it correctly puts individuals’ First Amendment rights above those of internet service providers.

The ACLU filed the brief in support of the state, which is being sued by four internet industry groups led by a Pennsylvania-based trade group called ACA Connects.

The law, enacted in 2019, requires internet providers to get customers’ consent before sharing or using their personal data. It is scheduled to take effect in July and is considered by many to provide some of the strictest consumer privacy protections in the country.

The national ACLU, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology also joined in the filing. None of the groups is a party to the lawsuit, but they filed what’s known as an amicus brief that contains arguments for the court to consider.

Four national associations representing internet service providers sued the state in February over the law, which the internet service providers allege violates the companies’ First Amendment rights by restricting the providers’ ability to advertise or market services to customers.

But the ACLU of Maine’s brief says the state has an interest in protecting consumers from surveillance by the internet providers whom, it argues, “are uniquely situated to invade customers’ privacy and evade market discipline.”

The brief also argues that internet providers have a “long history” of invading customers’ privacy, while the law is crafted in such a way that it still allows consumers to opt in to the companies’ offers and information if they choose.

The lawsuit is in its early stages. Both the internet providers and the state have asked for a “judgment on the pleadings” on at least parts of the suit. That would allow the court to conclude that one side or the other is clearly going to prevail, and it could issue a ruling without further arguments or hearings.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Bangor in February.


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