MCLU Urges State Legislators to Safeguard Personal Information

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
March 16, 2006 12:00 am

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PORTLAND, ME – The Maine Civil Liberties Union today urged Maine’s legislators to protect Mainers’ privacy when considering two bills in work sessions this week.

“In an age of advancing technology and extensive electronic surveillance, Maine’s legislators should do everything in their power to prevent the misuse and abuse of our private information,” said Shenna Bellows, Executive Director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. “Without strict protections on electronic data, our private information is bound to fall into the hands of companies or individuals who will use it for wrongful purposes.”

The Insurance Committee has begun review of “An Act to Amend the Notice of Risk to Personal Data Act.” Proposed amendments to the bill would establish written standards for the security of computerized data, including personal information, and include provisions for prompt investigations into security breaches of data systems.

The Judiciary Committee is considering “An Act to Protect Drivers’ Privacy by Clarifying Ownership of Data Recorded by Motor Vehicle Data Recorders.” The bill seeks to establish that the data collected and stored in car “black boxes” is private and exclusively owned by the owner of the motor vehicle.

“Mainers across the political spectrum are increasingly concerned with identity theft, electronic surveillance and other invasions of personal privacy,” said Bellows. “It must be made clear that such information is the property of the individual to whom it pertains, and must be kept private except with the permission of that individual. Measures of security must be exercised to ensure that such information does not come into the possession of companies or individuals who could use it for financial or legal gain.”

The following types of companies have been identified as potential future consumers of black box data: insurance companies, government agencies, human factors research companies, parents’ groups, vehicle owners and transportation researchers. While some of these interests might have legitimate need to access some recorded data, basic privacy safeguards must be in place to protect the personal privacy of individuals riding in vehicles.

“We must address potential privacy risks in a serious manner,” concluded Bellows. “Both of these bills are a step in the right direction toward protecting the private information of Mainers from being accessed by those who might abuse it.”

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