Lawmakers move to protect Minnesotans from ISPs freely selling their internet data

The Minnesota amendment would require ISPs to get your written permission before collecting data.
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Minnesotans could get extra protection to keep their online data from being sold, no matter what happens with federal regulations, after a move by the state Senate.

Sen. Ron Latz, during discussion over a larger economics bill Wednesday evening, offered up this amendment: It would require Internet Service Providers (aka ISPs) that contract in Minnesota to get written permission from Minnesota customers before collecting their personal information.

So you'd have to physically sign an agreement saying, "Yes ISP, you can collect my browsing data" before they can collect and sell the data gathered from your web browsing.

In addition, ISPs in Minnesota would not be allowed to deny your service because you don't sign that permission form.

"This amendment is about standing up and saying that our online privacy rights are critically important," Latz said in a statement. "The amendment states that Minnesotans shall not have their personal information from their use of internet or telecommunications services collected by providers WITHOUT their express written approval."

Latz is a Democrat, and the DFL noted Republican Sen. Warren Limmer spoke strongly about how he was in favor of the bill. And the amendment ended up passing by a huge margin – 66-1. That means it had broad support from both Democrats and Republicans. The only senator to vote against it was Republican David Osmek.

It's a response to a federal rollback

This is a direct response to recent moves by the U.S. House and Senate that would let ISPs – AT&T, Comcast, CenturyLink, US Internet, Verizon, Paul Bunyan, etc. – sell your information without letting you know. Customers would be able to opt out and have their data not be shared, but the default would be your data is shareable.

The resolution, after already passing the House and Senate, is probably going to be signed into law by the president in the near future.

It blocks some rules the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed in October from going into effect. Those rules would have prohibited ISPs from sharing your information without getting consent from you.

Why did representatives and senators vote to block these new rules?

Basically, supporters argue Facebook, Google, Amazon and other sites are selling this data without your explicit permission anyway already. So it's unfair to bar a different type of internet business – such as ISPs – from doing so as well.

(By the way, The Verge sorted through public donation data for every lawmaker that voted in favor of this rollback, and pulled out how much money they have received from the telecommunications industry.)

People who are worried about the implications of this resolution argue consumers should have a say when it comes to how their data is used. There are also privacy concerns – under this new resolution, ISPs could sell your web browsing history, location, and health information without getting your permission first.

Vox though notes ISPs selling data to advertisers isn't actually very common right now. This would open the door for it to happen more frequently however.

Minnesota's protections aren't law yet

This was only the Senate approving this amendment. And it was included as part of this larger bill, which is focused on economic development. That larger bill was approved by a 58-9 vote in the Senate.

Meanwhile the House has its own version of an economic development bill.

For this data protection amendment to become law, it will have to be included in a compromise economic development bill that Senate and House lawmakers agree to. Those chambers will have to OK the bill, then Gov. Mark Dayton will have to sign it.

So this amendment could very well be cut out at some point during this process.

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