Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler (D) has launched the Internet Privacy Unit to address Internet privacy and existing weaknesses and loopholes in online privacy policies of companies. The new unit is designed to protect Maryland consumers and their personal information from illicit online activities.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, online crime in Maryland ranks 7th out of the 50 states reporting incidents. The new Internet Privacy Unit will address privacy issues such as: geolocation, cyberbullying, cybersecurity, data breaches, and the dissemination of personal information. The unit will also seek to develop better ways of enforcing existing federal laws such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)—which prohibits most businesses from collecting the personal information of children under 13 without parental consent. The unit will also pursue enforcement actions, if appropriate, to protect the needs of Maryland consumers.

The actions of the Maryland Attorney General are similar to the actions of the California Attorney General upon the implementation of a Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit within the California Department of Justice.  The creation of the new unit by the Maryland Attorney General reinforces the increasing role of state enforcement authority in ensuring privacy protection for consumers in the Digital Age. Attorneys General throughout other states are also likely to introduce privacy units as a means for privacy enforcement. Businesses are reminded to undergo audits and examine existing policies for compliance with current laws and be aware of any best practice recommendations presented by the Attorney General of the applicable state.