Digital Books: A New Chapter for Reader Privacy

May 20, 2010
ACLU of Northern California

Page Media

ACLU of Northern CA

What you choose to read says a lot about who you are, what you value, and what you believe. That is why you should be able to read about anything from politics to health without worrying that someone is looking over your shoulder. But, as books move into digital form, new reader privacy issues are emerging.

Digital book services are capturing detailed information about readers including who they are, what books they browse and read, how long a given page is viewed, and even the notes written in the "margins."

Without strong privacy protections, all of this browsing and reading history can be collected and analyzed and could end up in the hands of the government or third parties without the reader’s knowledge or consent.

As Californians increasingly turn to online book services to browse, buy, and read books, it is essential that our laws continue to safeguard reader privacy in the digital age. But the laws simply have not kept up.

The Reader Privacy Act of 2011 updates reader privacy laws by mirroring the strong privacy and free speech standards in California law—ensuring that government and  parties cannot access private reading records without proper justification. View the full text of the bill here.

Learn more:

Issue Paper - Digital Books: A New Chapter for Reader Privacy

Who Wants to Know What You're Reading? [pdf]

Book and Video Sites: Who's Peeking Over Your Shoulder?

District Court Opinion Rejecting Google Books Settlement [pdf]

Google: Don't Close the Book on Reader Privacy v. Kenneth R. Lay

Decision: Federal Court Upholds Amazon Users' Privacy & Free Speech Rights [pdf]