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Ventura Signs Internet Privacy Bill

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NEW YORK -- Gov. Jesse Ventura signed an Internet privacy bill into law Wednesday, making Minnesota the first state to pass legislation of this kind.

The law, which takes effect March 1, 2003, calls for Internet businesses to obtain consent from consumers before disclosing their personal information to third parties. The request for authorization must reasonably describe the types of persons to whom the information may be disseminated and its anticipated uses.

It further states that a person who prevails in a legal action alleging an online privacy violation is entitled to the greater of $500 or actual damages.

The law also concerns commercial e-mail. One provision makes it illegal for Internet businesses to put false or misleading information in an e-mail subject line. Another stipulates that "ADV" must be the first characters used in a commercial e-mail, and "ADV-ADULT" must be used for messages containing information that consists of material of a sexual nature that may only be viewed by an individual 18 years of age or older.

Though this is the first online privacy bill to pass into law, others are pending; California is considering one of its own, while the U.S. Senate has passed a privacy bill out of committee.