News & Features
Session 2002

Governor signs bill letting Internet consumers block disclosures
By Patrick Howe
Associated Press
May 22, 2002

ST. PAUL (AP) - Internet users will eventually be able to control whether service providers disclose their personal information under a bill Gov. Jesse Ventura signed Wednesday.

National Internet companies fought the bill and its authors describe it as the most comprehensive of any state Internet privacy laws. It would not take effect until March 2003.

The law will require ISPs to tell Minnesota consumers whenever they plan to disclose such personal information as which Web sites users have visited, their e-mail or home addresses or their telephone numbers. They also would have to say what the information would be used for.

It requires that ISP contracts say in a "conspicuous" way whether their customers would have to take action to prevent the information-sharing once people are notified, or if the service provider would need permission to proceed.

The bill would allow consumers to sue businesses that violate the law, with exceptions for giving information to law enforcement.

The plan's sponsor, Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, modeled the bill on state and federal laws that prevent video stores from disclosing what movies customers have rented.

A second part of the bill follows the lead of other states that have adopted rules to try to control unwanted e-mail. It would require companies sending unsolicited advertisements to include the letters "ADV" in the subject line of e-mails - "ADV-ADULT" for material of a sexual nature - to make it easier to filter out.

Lobbyists from America Online, Yahoo! and others fought the bill, saying state-by-state regulation of the Internet is unwieldy, and there is no evidence that ISPs are violating the privacy of users now.

Under the measure, any similar laws adopted by the federal government would supersede.