November 24, 2014

California Governor Signs Reader Privacy Act

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed the Reader Privacy Act, updating the state’s reader privacy law to cover ebooks and online book services. The law will take effect January 1.

The law will establish privacy protections for book purchases similar to long-established privacy laws for library records, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which sponsored the bill along with the American Civil Liberties Union.

“California will have the strongest laws in the country protecting reader privacy in the digital era. That’s good for consumers and supports innovation. Legal protections must keep up with technological advances,” said Valerie Small Navarro, legislative advocate with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. “California should be a leader in ensuring that upgraded technology does not mean downgraded privacy,” she said.

According to the ACLU of Northern California, the law “requires the government and civil litigants to demonstrate a compelling interest in obtaining reader records and show that the information contained in those records cannot be obtained by less intrusive means. It also requires providers of digital book services to record each request for reader records and to publish an annual report detailing the total number of requests received.”

“This is great news for Californians, updating their privacy for the 21st Century,” said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn in a statement. “The Reader Privacy Act will help Californians protect their personal information whether they use new digital book services or their corner bookstore.”

The bill was authored by California State Senator Leland Yee.

“California law was completely inadequate when it came to protecting one’s privacy for book purchases, especially for online shopping and electronic books,” said Yee in a statement.

Without strong privacy protections like the ones in the Reader Privacy Act, reading records can be too easily targeted by government scrutiny as well as exposed in legal proceedings like divorce cases and custody battles, the EFF said in a statement on its website.

Other supporters of the new law included Google, TechNet, the Consumer Federation of California, the Internet Archive, and City Lights Bookstore.

Michael Kelley About Michael Kelley

Michael Kelley (mkelley@mediasourceinc.com) is the former Editor-in-Chief, Library Journal.

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