Press Release Broadband Privacy

Public Knowledge Files Brief Supporting Maine’s Effort to Protect Broadband User Privacy

June 1, 2020 , ,

Today, Public Knowledge filed an amicus brief at the United States District Court of Maine in the case of ACA v. Frey. In June of 2019, Maine passed a law prohibiting broadband providers from using, disclosing, selling, or permitting access to a customer’s personal information without the customer’s consent. Broadband providers sued, claiming that the law infringed on their First Amendment rights and was preempted by federal law. 

In its brief, Public Knowledge argues that Maine’s attempt to protect the privacy of broadband users is lawful. The brief contends that internet service providers do not have a First Amendment right to violate the privacy of their subscribers, since the restrictions target behavior that is non-expressive, and are no different in kind than doctor/patient or lawyer/client confidentiality requires. The brief also explains why Maine’s law is not preempted by any federal law, statute, or policy.

The following can be attributed to John Bergmayer, Legal Director at Public Knowledge:

“When Congress repealed the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband privacy rules before they even went into effect, and when the FCC voluntarily gave up authority over broadband, they invited the states to step in and protect consumers when the federal government would not.

“Maine’s broadband privacy statute does just that, clarifying to broadband providers that they do not have the right to exploit their privileged position to violate user privacy.

“The First Amendment arguments against this law are specious, and amount to a declaration that any attempts to protect broadband users’ privacy are unconstitutional. The district court should uphold this law.”

You may view the amicus brief for more information.