MN Senate Puts Party Aside on Web Privacy

In the aftermath of legislation passed by a Republican-majority in Congress, State DFL Sen. proposes protections.

Image Credit: Preya Samsundar/Alpha News MN

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A new bill, proposed and passed by the Republican majority in Congress allows internet companies to monetize search histories.

The bill, passed with the full support of Republican leadership and the White House, rolls back a key internet privacy law put in place during the Obama administration. It will allow internet companies like Comcast and Verizon to sell a person’s internet history to online advertisers as a way to target advertising based on search results.

When signed by President Donald Trump in coming days, the new law will have an effect similar to Google advertising, where Google scans keywords in searches and emails to create custom advertising.

On Wednesday evening, MN State Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park) introduced a measure to protect people living in Minnesota from having their browsers searched.

Latz offered up an amendment during a debate over a bill on economic development that would, according to the amendment, prohibit internet companies from collecting the“Personal information from a customer resulting from the customer’s use of the telecommunications or internet service provider without express written approval from the customer. No such telecommunication or internet service provider shall refuse to provide its services to a customer on the grounds that the customer has not approved collection of the customer’s personal information.”

The amendment was nearly stopped after Sen. David Osmek (R-Mound) called a technicality, but, Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove) joined Senate Democrats in pushing the bill to a vote. The amendment was added by nearly unanimously by a vote of 66-1.

“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. It won’t circumvent the federal government, but will give Minnesotans a legal recourse to protect their privacy.”

After Congressional Republicans passed the bill on internet history earlier this week, many Americans expressed their frustration in the government allowing companies to sell their personal, private data.

Hollywood Actor Misha Collins set up a GoFundMe page after the passing of the bill stating, “Congress recently voted to strip Americans of their privacy rights by voting for SJR34, a resolution that allows Internet Service Providers to collect, and sell your sensitive data without your consent or knowledge. Since Congress has made our privacy a commodity, let’s band together to buy THEIR privacy. So far, the page has raised almost $74,000 of a $500 million goal.

Latz, who thanked Limmer for joining him in leading the fight for internet privacy states the amendment will now be debated in the omnibus jobs bill conference committee.

Preya Samsundar

Preya Samsundar was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN. She graduated from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities this Spring with a B.A. in Political Science and Sociology, with a minor in Strategic Communications. Preya has previously worked on several State Campaign Races.