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Expansion of Maine Privacy Laws Meets Big Tech Resistance

The industry group TechNet, which represents several Silicon Valley tech giants like Apple and Meta, is trying to push Maine lawmakers away from ACLU-backed privacy legislation that the group says is too broad.

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(TNS) — A version of this article was originally published in The Daily Brief, our Maine politics newsletter. Sign up here for daily news and insight from politics editor Michael Shepherd.

Maine lawmakers have passed landmark privacy protections over the last decade, from banning warrantless cellphone tracking in 2013 to a first-in-the-nation Internet privacy law in 2019 later upheld by courts.

Bipartisan coalitions are back on the issue this year with a variety of approaches, although they are divided on some of them. Tech companies are at odds with the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine on one of them, despite it coming from some ACLU-aligned lawmakers.

The context: A set of privacy bills getting hearings in front of the Legislature's judiciary panel on Monday includes a proposed constitutional right to privacy as well as other bills that would require consent before companies collect Mainers' biometric indicators such as facial recognition or fingerprints and another measure that would establish a new Maine Consumer Privacy Act.

The ACLU of Maine backs that second measure, which is led by Rep. Maggie O'Neil, D- Saco, saying it would be a barrier against discrimination and potential leaks of personal data. But it opposes the other measure led by Assistant Senate Minority Leader Lisa Keim, R- Dixfield, criticizing it in part for repealing the 2019 protections and putting weaker ones in place.

The industry group TechNet — representing CEOs from Apple, Meta and other tech giants — is pushing lawmakers to reject the ACLU-backed bill and implement the other one, saying the more sweeping bill will cover all types of data and be more effective. It singles out other privacy bills for being too broad, criticizing two of them for allowing Mainers to sue companies violating the measure.

What's next: Keim and two other senators are sponsoring both of those key bills, indicating some overlap between privacy advocates on these differing solutions. Lawmakers are going to have to reconcile the differing approaches here with lots of pressure from corporate giants and privacy groups.

©2023 the Bangor Daily News, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.