California Senate Passes Expansion to Reader Privacy Bill

In a vote this week, the California Senate expanded the Reader Privacy Bill, a bill protecting bookstore and library records from government snooping, to include online bookstores.

The Reader Privacy Bill is important to protecting individual privacy, since our personal reading choices reflect the things we think, feel, and want to know more about. If these reading choices were made public, it might allow the government to learn - perhaps incorrectly - our personal beliefs and feelings.

The Reader Privacy Bill currently requires the government to submit evidence to a Judge detailing why an individuals reading list is necessary. It also requires that the government submit timely reports about the nature and number of the requests made, so individuals and watchdog groups can track changes in requests over time.

The privacy of library records has long been established, but digital book information can reveal far more than what can be discerned from a reading list. Digital libraries and bookstores can (and do) track which books a user reads, how long they spend reading each page, and even the electronic notes typed into the book's margins. The expansion of the Reader Privacy Bill hopes to protect Californians' information by establishing similar requirements on government requests as already exist for brick and mortar libraries.

The next step for the bill is the State Assembly, where the EFF and ACLU will continue to support the bill's progress toward it becoming a law.


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