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The New England First Amendment Coalition warned Maine legislators today that a proposal to create a state constitutional right to privacy could infringe on First Amendment rights and the Freedom of Access Act.
“We understand the need for personal privacy, particularly from government intrusion, but we have grave concerns that the language contained here is overly broad and will implicate First Amendment-protected activities and entitlements under the Freedom of Access Act,” according to testimony submitted on behalf of the coalition and other press advocates.
LD 1529 proposes to add to the Maine constitution:
All natural persons have an inherent right to privacy that is free from governmental and private intrusion. The inherent right to privacy includes but is not limited to privacy of a natural person’s personal life, personal communications, private affairs and personal thoughts or inner life.
A natural person’s interaction with an Internet, communication or other electronic data service does not diminish the natural person’s reasonable expectation of privacy.
According to the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida which studies privacy legislation, the language in LD 1529 is broader than any other bill throughout the country and is “far out of step” with what other states have done or are doing.
NEFAC and other press groups suggested that the legislation focus solely on government intrusion and not also “private intrusion” which implicates First Amendment interests.
“People deserve privacy, but there must be a balance between privacy and public access, between shielding personal information and allowing businesses to use that information to serve customers, between privacy and First Amendment freedoms, and between blocking access to all private communications and thoughts — even if a person chooses to make private thoughts public on social media or other forums,” the groups wrote.
NEFAC is the region’s leading advocate for the First Amendment and the public’s right to know about government. The coalition regularly writes and joins amicus briefs in cases involving First Amendment freedoms and the public’s right to know about government. All coalition briefs, advocacy letters and statements can be found here.
NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.
Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.
Leadership Circle donors include Hearst Connecticut Media Group, The Boston Globe, Paul and Ann Sagan, and the Robertson Foundation. Major Supporters include Boston University, WBUR-Boston, the Academy of New England Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists Foundation, Genie Gannett and Linda Pizzuti Henry.