Maine lawmakers are considering a bill some claim would improve internet privacy for their constituents.

Lawmakers should reject this misguided piece of legislation – LD 1610 – as it would not accomplish its ostensible goal. Instead, it would inflict a great deal of harm on Maine taxpayers and consumers.

Under the status quo, there is plenty of incentive for internet service providers (ISPs) to actively protect consumers’ private information. There is a natural market incentive, as violating one’s privacy would deter customers, and a legal incentive, as existing laws requiring all actors in the communications space to guard personal information are enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state Attorneys General.

The current method to privacy enforcement allows bad actors to be punished without discouraging innovation and competition in the industry. Piling on state laws such as LD 1610 would not promote any of those outcomes.

LD 1610’s misguided approach to privacy would zero in on who holds consumer data rather than the data type. It would apply onerous and costly regulations to ISPs only, which is pretty bizarre if protecting one’s privacy is the goal. For example, compared to individual websites, ISPs see far less of what you do online because over 70% of websites use https encryption. An ISP can only see which website you visit, not what you do on the websites.

In addition to being unnecessary and ineffective, LD 1610 would be a huge mistake. The costs and consequences of complying with a patchwork of many state privacy laws throughout the country would make it much more difficult for ISPs to maintain and expand their services, and invest in the next generation of broadband. As such, LD 1610 would leave Mainers with fewer choices, outmoded technology, and an overall lower quality of internet.

Making matters worse, if implemented, LD 1610 would also likely result Maine taxpayers footing costly legal challenges. That is because state legislation or executive orders that attempt to regulate privacy through procurement or contracts violate federal law preempting state interference with interstate commerce.

Americans for Tax Reform and The Maine Heritage Policy Center sent a letter to lawmakers in Maine, warning them of the consequences of LD 1610 and urging them to reject it. To view the full letter, click here.