Reader Privacy Act Signed into Law

By: ACLU of Northern California

On Sunday, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Reader Privacy Act of 2011, giving Californians strong legal protection for records of their reading habits in the country. Thanks to everyone who wrote to their legislators and the governor in support of the Act!

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.

"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 ACLU of California.

The books we read reveal private, often sensitive information about our political and religious beliefs, our health concerns, and our personal lives. And throughout history, government and third parties have tried to collect evidence of these reading habits to trample unpopular ideas and beliefs and watch activists. That's why California law has long recognized the importance of safeguarding reading records and other expressive material.

As Californians increasingly turn to online book services to browse, buy, and read books, it is essential that our laws keep pace and safeguard reader privacy in the digital age.

The Reader Privacy Act of 2011 (SB 602) updates reader privacy laws by mirroring the strong privacy and free speech standards in California law—ensuring that government and third parties can’t demand access to private reading records without proper justification and creating greater transparency about how often reading records are disclosed.

Digital Book Upgrades Should Not Lead to Reader Privacy Downgrades.

Learn more:

SB 602 Bill Language

SB 602 Fact Sheet [pdf]

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

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

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

District Court Opinion Rejecting Google Books Settlement [pdf]

Google: Don't Close the Book on Reader Privacy

Amazon.com v. Kenneth R. Lay

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

Reader Privacy Act of 2011 (SB 602) Supported by Diverse Organizations and Companies Including:

  • American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
  • Californians Aware
  • California Library Association
  • Center for Democracy and Technology
  • Consumer Federation of California
  • CALEGISLATION  
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
  • Google
  • Alibris
  • Monsoon Commerce Solutions
  • Pamela Samuelson, Professor of Law- University of California, Berkeley
  • Privacy Activism
  • Privacy Rights Clearinghouse