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Internet privacy effort in flux at Legislature

ST. PAUL — 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.