If someone secretly collects your personal information without your consent and sells it to marketing companies, you might as well get a cut, right?
After Congress elected to get rid of rules that would have banned Internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T from mining consumers' browsing data and selling it advertisers, Minnesota legislators stepped up to protect Internet privacy.
Both chambers of the legislature passed measures to preemptively prohibit that sort of thing being done to Minnesotans. It had strong popular support, and easily earned bipartisan votes.
However, this week Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) stripped Internet privacy provisions out of the Omnibus Jobs and Energy bill, saying that he intended to blend it with another, unrelated bill that needed some alterations. He promised that it would eventually be added back in.
Democratic proponents of the original Internet privacy bill were wary. Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park) and Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL-Minneapolis) held a press conference decrying the move. Their Republican colleagues Garofalo and Sen. David Osmek (R-Mound) told them to chill, and to have faith that nothing is amiss.
On Thursday, Thissen forged ahead. He introduced a new Internet bill that, while it doesn't ensure anybody's privacy, would force service providers to pay consumers back.
His bill would direct the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to determine how much Internet providers profit from the selling of consumer data, and how much they should pay consumers for using their data. Beginning in January 2019 Internet service providers would have to start paying out.
"Right now, our economy is becoming increasingly dominated by a handful of incredibly powerful companies who make huge amounts of money trading on the personal information of Americans," Thissen said. "It's time for Minnesotans to have ownership of their own personal information recognized and to share in the profits made off the sale of that information."