Maine recently enacted a marketing statute (which becomes effective September 11, 2009) regulating the collection of "personal information" and "health information" from minors for marketing purposes. "Personal information" is broadly defined to include individually identifiable information (e.g., name, address, e-mail address or SSN). "Health information" is also broadly defined as any information about an individual relating to health, nutrition, drug or medication use, physical or bodily condition, mental health, medical history, medical insurance coverage or claims or similar data.

The statute(http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/bills_124th/chapters/PUBLIC230.asp) prohibits the collection of personal or health information from minors for marketing purposes unless "verifiable parental consent" is first obtained. It also puts restrictions on the use of minors' personal or health information for marketing directed at minors. Each collection or use of minors' information in violation of the Maine statute constitutes a violation. Coupled with the private right of action for which $250 statutory damages are available (which can be tripled for knowing or willful violations) plus attorney's fees, the statute may lay the groundwork for class action lawsuits. In addition, the Maine Attorney General can enforce the statute by seeking an injunction and a fine of between $10,000 and $20,000 for a first violation and at least $20,000 for each subsequent violation.

Like the federal Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), the Maine statue only applies to the "knowing" collection of information. Unlike COPPA, the Maine statute is much broader because it covers minors age 13 - 18 (whereas COPPA only covers children younger than age 13) and the Maine statute applies to both online and offline collection (whereas COPPA applies only online). The Maine statute is narrower in that it applies only to the collection of information for marketing purposes, whereas COPPA applies regardless of the purpose for which the information is collected.

Therefore, "general audience" web sites that collect personal or health information for marketing purposes may be able to comply with the statute by either not collecting users' ages or by screening users younger than age 18 -- at least for those living in Maine.