A major privacy bill went quietly into that good night last week (the “dead file,” as we call it in the legislature). But a good dying bill isn’t news in itself in Augusta. It happens all the time.
What is remarkable is that a bill with this level of opposition paid for by powerful corporate lobbyists received virtually no coverage in the mainstream press and that half a dozen progressive senators are actually teaming up with conservative Republicans to do their bidding.
First, a little background on the bill: in a nutshell, LD1945 would have restricted the rights of businesses and owners to take photos of you without your consent. Real photos of your face. Bio photos of your fingerprint or iris data. Or voice recognition recordings. It would also have prevented them from selling this information to other companies so that these companies could now make money off of your identity.
Currently, companies across the country, including retailers, concert halls and stadiums, have started using this data to track us in their establishments and market their merchandise.
Additionally, landlords have begun installing facial recognition systems in apartment buildings to track the whereabouts of unwitting tenants and guests.
Besides grossly violating our privacy, these ID systems falsely identify people of color, children, women, transgender, and gender nonconforming adults at much higher rates than white men. These and similar reasons are why Portland residents have overwhelmingly banned the use of facial surveillance technology by our police department.
Because of all of this, the bill has been backed by the ACLU, AARP, EqualityMaine, Maine TransNet, GLAD, the Standing Commission on the Status of Maine’s Racial, Native, and Tribal Peoples, and even the Attorney General. .
And it was opposed, unsurprisingly, by banks, corporate lobbyists, retailers, hospital giants, insurance companies and, of course, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. In fact, here is the full list of paid lobbyists working against the bill registered with the Ethics Commission:
Amazon, American Express, Alliance for Automotive Innovation, American Property and Casualty Insurance Association, American International Group, Anthem, Bank of America, Charter Communications, CIGNA, Comcast, Consumer Data Industry Association, Consumer Healthcare Products Association, Eli Lilly & Company, Entertainment Software Association, Hannaford Bros., Maine Association of Broadcasters, Maine Association of Insurance Companies, Maine Bankers Association, Maine Credit Union League, Maine Grocers & Food Producers Association, Maine Credit Union League, Maine Hospital Association, Maine Insurance Agents Association, Maine Osteopathic Association, Maine State Chamber of Commerce, Maine Society of Anesthesiologists, Maine Veterans’ Homes, Medical Mutual Insurance Company of Maine, Meta Platforms, Motion Picture Association, NAIFA-Maine, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), Pine State Trading Co ., PROCTER & GAMBLE, ReEnergy Holdings, Retail Association of M ai ne, Retail Association of Maine, T-Mobile, Walmart.
Yeah. A total of 52 corporate lobbyists (that we know of so far) are working to kill this bill. Although I cannot calculate how much all of these lobbyists were paid as a group, I assure you it will amount to tens of thousands of dollars. This tells you how important it is for these companies to obtain your identity without your knowledge.
You’ll also note the Maine Association of Broadcasters on the list, in case you were wondering why you didn’t see this story at the top of the evening news.
But perhaps most disappointing is that it was six progressive Democrats who stopped this bill from becoming law.
We have to thank the Democratic senators who supported the bill: Bailey, Breen, Brenner, Chipman, Claxon, Daughtry, Deschambault, Diamond, Dill, Hickman, Lawrence, Libby, Maxmin, Miramant and Rafferty.
If your senator is not on the list, ask him why.
Correction: An earlier version of this column included the Maine Press Association in the list of organizations that lobbied against LD1945 because they appeared on the Maine Ethics page of Mitchell Tardy, the main lobbying firm opposed to the bill. The Maine Press Association says Mitchell Tardy mistakenly listed them on the Maine Ethics website for LD1945.
Photo: Photos at FEP via a Creative Commons license, Flickr