ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota lawmakers' attempts to safeguard residents' internet privacy are in limbo.
Long-simmering privacy concerns about personal information and browsing history bubbled up across the nation after Congress moved to loosen regulations that could potentially allow internet providers to sell customers' data. The House and Senate voted overwhelmingly earlier this session to bar that data collection in separate bills.
But that provision was stripped from a compromise budget bill released this week, prompting alarm among some Democrats who spearheaded the measure. Top Republicans charged with crafting that bill said Tuesday they're still working on the privacy provision, and that it could resurface.
Rep. Pat Garofalo said the Legislature needs to strike a balance that will both protect consumers' privacy while not causing unintended consequences, suggesting that the broader-reaching language passed by the House could have inadvertently banned the use of voice-activated assistant technology like Apple's Siri or Amazon's Alexa.
"If we banned Siri and Alexa it would have led to the 'March of the Millennials' at the Capitol," said Garofalo, a Farmington Republican. "We just want to make sure we get the language right before posting it."
But Democrats tried to keep the pressure on to ensure that it doesn't disappear. Sen. Ron Latz and Rep. Paul Thissen, who helped attach the privacy provisions separately in the Senate and House, held a news conference Tuesday to call attention to its removal.
"It's very clear that Minnesotans and Americans want their privacy protected," said Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis. "Consumers shouldn't have to trade away their right to participate in the modern world at the price of giving up their personal privacy,"
And Latz said he hopes the final version goes farther — he wants to add language that would bar internet providers from denying service or increasing prices for customers who opt out of having their data collected.