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Fargo lawmaker unhappy data privacy bill amended into a study

Fargo Republican Rep. Jim Kasper listens to Gregory Stites, an attorney for supporters of the new anti-corruption language in the North Dakota constitution, during a meeting at the state Capitol Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. John Hageman / Forum News Service

BISMARCK — A Fargo lawmaker said he was surprised and unhappy to see his data privacy bill watered down to a legislative study Tuesday, Feb. 12.

Republican Rep. Jim Kasper's bill allowing consumers to request companies like Google and Facebook to delete and stop collecting their personal data came after national privacy scandals and was backed by a Microsoft official. The legislation would have also required companies to provide information about data they've collected and to correct inaccurate information.

Republican Gov. Doug Burgum, a former Microsoft executive, previously told reporters he supported the concept behind the bill.

But the House Industry, Business and Labor Committee slimmed down the bill to a mandatory study of data privacy issues during the interim period before the 2021 legislative session. The amended bill received a "do pass" recommendation and will arrive on the House floor soon.

Kasper had proposed delaying the effective date of the consumer protections for two years alongside the legislative study, a move he said would have forced technology companies to come to the table to hash out disagreements. But the committee opted only for a study instead, he said.

"I'm not happy at all," Kasper said. "The tech companies got to the committee."

Groups representing the information technology and wireless communications industries asked lawmakers during a hearing last week to avoid quickly passing "sweeping" mandates that they warned would result in a "compliance nightmare" for companies. California lawmakers rapidly approved data regulations last year in an effort to intercept a pending ballot proposal, the Washington Post reported.

The North Dakota committee's chairman, Bismarck Republican Rep. George Keiser, acknowledged there was a lot of lobbying on the proposal but said lawmakers hadn't had a chance to adequately vet the bill, which was based on language moving through the Washington statehouse.

"We didn't feel comfortable putting a law on our books based on the actions of another state when that state has not even taken action on the bill," Keiser said.

Keiser credited Kasper for identifying an important consumer protection issue and said lawmakers will pass a bill next session after studying it and coming up with "a North Dakota solution, not a Washington state solution."

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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