Minnesota Passes Telecom-Privacy Bill

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In the rush to wrap up this past weekend, Minnesota legislators passed a
broad-reaching telecommunications-privacy bill.

It was OKed despite heated opposition from cable and telephone companies,
including a last-minute press by AOL Time Warner Inc. and electronic-business
groups.

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

Companies are barred from sharing addresses or phone numbers, data stored on
PCs, or information that Internet vendors request from users.

The bill is similar to a municipal ordinance passed recently in Seattle.
Regulators in both locales said they want to prevent targeted ads and electronic
spam.

Critics of such bills say the laws could make providers criminally liable for
informing their own customers of new products.

Minnesota Cable Communications Association executive director Mike Martin
said opponents are still analyzing their options. Gov. Jesse Ventura still needs
to sign the bill by June 1, and he's prolific with his veto power, Martin
noted.

The bill is not effective until next March. Before that time, the Legislature
will meet again, and opponents could lobby for amendments.

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