For generations, shoemaking is all my family has known. My grandfather, David Rancourt, emigrated from Quebec to Lewiston, working in shoe factories. He became the factory foreman and by 1967 had earned enough to buy the factory. My father, Mike, eventually joined him. Growing up, I saw my parents and many members of my community, in one way or another, involved in shoemaking.

I joined the family business after college. Until then, we were private label manufacturers, primarily selling hand-sewn shoes to brands like Cole Haan and Allen Edmonds. In 2009, my father and I founded Rancourt & Co. to build our own brand. We expanded to wholesaling our eponymous brand and selling directly to customers online. This posed new logistical challenges. We needed a website, a digital marketing strategy and relationships with thousands of retail customers. All of this depended on the internet and social media.

In the early days of our e-commerce business, we worked hard to build our customer base. We successfully transitioned, now earning 60% of revenue from online retail sales. We employ 42 people in Lewiston. Most are from shoemaking families, and others are new Mainers from Angola and Congo. These skilled craftspeople keep shoemaking in Maine alive and e-commerce makes this possible.

Part of our transition depended on digital advertising. We ran targeted ads on social media, giving me a glimpse behind the curtain of Facebook’s and Instagram’s marketing machines. We still depend on digital marketing and keep track of developments in data privacy law.

A bill currently before the Maine legislature, L.D. 1977, would dramatically alter the landscape of data privacy – for the better. It would offer Maine’s people the nation’s strongest data privacy protections. I hope our lawmakers give it bipartisan support.

L.D. 1977 would rein in the worst abuses of tech giants like Meta and Amazon, but leave small and medium businesses like Rancourt & Co. untouched. It would apply only to businesses with the personal data of 50,000 Maine residents or businesses that earn more than 20% of their gross revenue from possessing and selling the personal data of 10,000 Maine residents. None of this applies to personal information collected to process a payment. We neither have 50,000 Maine customers, nor do we sell personal data. The law does not apply to us – or any small or medium Maine business that I know of.


Even if L.D. 1977 directly affected us, it is reasonable. It would give consumers the right to know what’s collected about them and delete that information. It also prohibits the use of personal data to discriminate based on gender, race, disability and other legally protected categories.

If a business violated the law, only the Maine Attorney General could sue. There is no extra reporting or red tape – none of the things that can lead to death-by-a-thousand-regulatory-cuts. The data Big Tech could continue collecting would still allow businesses like mine to run effective digital ads and reach potential customers. This bill strikes the balance between consumer privacy and free enterprise.

There is, to be fair, a way L.D. 1977 might apply indirectly to businesses like mine. The bill’s most important feature implements what is known as data minimization. It would limit tech giants from collecting the most minute details about people who use the internet, limiting data collection to only what is necessary to provide the goods or services a customer requests.

Data minimization would certainly diminish Big Tech’s power to manipulate. That’s the point. Data privacy keeps enormous corporations from wielding undue power and influence over ordinary people. This power could be used to conquer new markets for short-term gains, but it can also be used to manipulate voters, jurors, legislators, and other important decision-makers in our democracy. Ten years ago, Cambridge Analytica sold voters’ psychological profiles to nefarious actors who ran ads misinforming voters to undermine democracy. Chasing short-sighted goals will never outweigh long-term threats. Our family business has thrived for generations because we build trusting relationships with our customers, not because we exploit their most personal information to get ahead this quarter.

My grandfather came to Lewiston to earn an honest living. He helped build a lasting community of shoemakers that produced something tangible and authentic. In today’s tech economy, not every business plan is rooted in honesty. The power to manipulate us is too profitable for Big Tech to resist, and the downsides for Maine’s people far outweigh any tech giant’s monetary gain. We must pass LD 1977 to protect us from Big Tech’s worst impulses; our democracy hangs in the balance.

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