Minn. OKs Privacy Bill

In its rush to conclude its session two weekends ago, the Minnesota Legislature passed a broad-reaching telecommunications-privacy bill.

The measure won approval despite heated opposition from cable and telephone companies, including a last-minute press by AOL Time Warner Inc. and e-business groups. Gov. Jesse Ventura has not yet signed it into law.

The bill requires telecommunications companies to disclose the types of consumer-specific information they collect and share. Aggregated information is not considered consumer data.

The measure would bar companies from sharing home addresses, Internet-protocol addresses or phone numbers, as well as data stored on personal computers or information requested from vendors by Internet users.


It's similar to a municipal ordinance passed recently in Seattle. Regulators in both places said they want to prevent targeted ads and spam.

Critics are fearful that the measure will render providers criminally liable for speaking to their own customers about new products.

Minnesota Cable Communications Association executive director Mike Martin said opponents of the measure were analyzing their options.

Ventura must sign the bill by June 1, and he's been prolific in exercising his veto power, Martin noted. Also, the law would not take effect until next March. The Legislature will meet again before then, and opponents could lobby for amendments.

Operators received more favorable news about a telecommunications tax the legislators considered as part of a budget reconciliation package.

Legislators proposed a 5-percent gross receipts tax on telecommunications services. Cable companies fought the possible levy by airing 60-second spots advising consumers of the impact on their bills should the tax pass.

A House-Senate conference committee killed the proposal, according to Martin.