Maine’s Democratic state Senator Elizabeth Schneider is expected to introduce a revised bill aimed at protecting the online privacy of minors by the end of the month, Maine Public Broadcasting’s A.J. Higgins reports.
The federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) already protects the privacy of children under 13, but Schneider has expressed concern that COPPA does not do enough to protect all minors from marketing, particularly prescription-drug and health care product marketing on the web.
The new bill in the works will replace controversial legislation previously introduced by Schneider, signed into law and scheduled to enter into force in September 2009. The first bill, which proposed severe restrictions on marketing to anyone under the age of 18, was subject to a barrage of criticism and several legal challenges. Maine attorney general Janet Mills even declared that she would not enforce the law due to constitutional free speech concerns. (My colleague, Deborah Birnbach, and I covered those developments in a November article in Goodwin Procter’s Privacy & Data Security Advisory newsletter.)
As a result, Schneider has agreed to draft a more narrowly focused measure, with the specific goal of addressing medical information. It will be interesting to see how the new bill balances the protection of privacy with the free-speech concerns brought up by Mills and other critics. A public hearing on the new bill could be scheduled as early as next month, when the state legislature reconvenes.