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Internet providers would need permission to use consumer data under proposed MT legislation

Posted: 10:30 PM, Mar 16, 2019
Updated: 2019-03-16 14:51:33-04

HELENA — Rep. Daniel Zolnikov (R-Billings) says people have a right to be asked if internet service providers can use their personal data.

Zolnikov is sponsoring  House Bill 457,  which forces internet providers to have explicit consent from customers before they use their personal browsing data.

He said people have a choice of where they go online, but, especially in rural areas, there’s not much choice on how they get access.

Zolnikov said providers will still be able to use data to create profiles of people based on their browsing history to make targeted ads.

“I say that’s fine. Just ask for my permission,” he said.

Montana Chamber of Commerce CEO Cary Hegreberg opposed the bill during its public hearing Friday. He agrees that internet privacy laws need to be updated, but it should be a unified solution.

Hegreberg said having different policy coming from different places would ultimately cause more harm than good.

“This is a federal issue. It should be solved at the federal level. Individual states trying to pass a patchwork of laws to address a problem that is not only national but international in scope could create a lot of problems,” Hegreberg said.

The power to enforce the law would be given to the Montana Department of Justice. Under the bill, the DOJ could fine a provider up to $10,000 for a violation.

The House Judiciary Committee did not immediately take action on the bill Friday.

  • Tim Pierce reporting for the UM Legislative News Service, University of Montana School of Journalism

Tim Pierce is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Greater Montana Foundation and the Montana Newspaper Association.