Lawmakers & Advocates Out To Protect The Privacy Of Maine Citizens

Rob Poindexter

Updated 1 year ago

How vulnerable is your personal information in the age of Facebook and smart phones?For many of us it’s all about convenience, whether it’s our cell phones or the fact we do almost everything online, from shopping to paying bills and even banking. There isn’t a whole lot stopping companies from selling your private information to the highest bidder. “Data aggregation and refining has become a multiple billion dollar industry over the past handful of years. So I stand here with you today on the corner of convenience and creepy,” Portland Democrat Dianne Russell said at a news conference announcing the package of bills.Russell’s proposal would require websites that collect personal information from Mainers to post and comply with a strict privacy policy. “Equifax, one of the nation’s largest credit reporting agencies, with one of the most expansive private data bases of information, has accumulated the salary, the private salary and employment records of more than one third of U.S. adults. They are selling some of this information to debt collectors and other financial service companies,” Russell said.Lamwakers aren’t stopping there. They’re proposing several other pieces of legislation that will help protect your information, whether it’s cell phone conversations or social media accounts.Augusta Senator Roger Katz, an attorney, submitted a pair of bills. One would require law enforcement to get a warrant before obtaining cell phone records or text message content. His other bill would require a warrant before law enforcement could legally track the location of a person’s cell phone. “Just because our communications take place over the internet and cell towers doesn’t mean they should be less protected than a handwritten letter or a diary,” said ACLU of Maine Executive Director Shenna Bellows.Another proposal, this one from Raymond Republican Mike McClellan, would prohibit employers from demanding access to their employees social media accounts. “You wouldn’t expect your employer to say when you come to work tomorrow, can you bring your photo albums? Your home videos, you know your diary,” McCllelan said. “You would say no. So why then would we think an employer could say I want to get on your Facebook account.”Senator John Patrick, an Oxford County Democrat, has introduced a bill that would place state limits on domestic drone use, including requiring a warrant or a court order for a domestic drone to be used for law enforcement purposes. Domestic drones are unmanned aircraft carrying cameras that the ACLU says “would provide routine aerial surveillance of American citizens.” The use of these drones is being held up by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) but they are eventually expected to be launched.Thursday’s press conference made strange bed fellows as Republicans, Democrats and the ACLU of Maine all shared the same stage to mark Data Privacy Day and introduce these new bills. If these lawmakers and advocates have their way, every day will be Data Privacy Day.


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