Maine AG Rejects Challenge To Privacy Law

tween on laptop

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills has asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit by media groups and Web companies challenging a controversial new privacy law.

Mills argues that the court should not get involved because she has no plans to prosecute companies for violating the measure. "The attorney general has publicly stated, and hereby confirms, that she will not enforce this law, to which the governor concurs," her office wrote in papers filed Thursday with the federal district court in Maine. "It is well-established that a federal court has no jurisdiction over a challenge to a state statute when there is no credible risk of enforcement."

The new law, slated to take effect Sept. 12, would bar companies from collecting personal information or health-related information from minors under 18 without their parents' consent. The measure also prohibits companies from selling or transferring health information about minors that identifies them, regardless of how the data was collected.

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A coalition of media organizations including the Maine Press Association, and Web companies including AOL, Yahoo and eBay, recently asked the court to issue an injunction against the measure.

They contend that the law would violate their First Amendment right to publish newsworthy information about teens, as well as restricting teens' right to receive information. The Web companies also say the measure would require them to block teens from their sites.

The measure, signed by Maine Governor John Baldacci in June, sailed through the state legislature with no opposition -- apparently because watchdogs lost sight of the bill.

Although Mills has no plans to carry out the law, opponents say they are seeking an injunction because the measure also allows private parties to sue for $250 damages per violation. But Mills says the case should nonetheless be dismissed. "Essentially, the courts do not require state officials to defend against theoretical lawsuits that might be brought by private parties against private parties," her office argues.

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