The California Reader Privacy Act (SB 602) passed in October 2011 and will be going into effect on January 1st 2012. EFF and the California affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union sponsored the bill, as it brings a much-needed digital rights upgrade to state law. It mirrors the strong privacy and free speech standards that are already in place and extends them to digital books and electronic reading records.
As Californians increasingly rely on online services to browse read and buy books it is essential that state law keep pace to safeguard readers. Digital books now outsell paperbacks on Amazon.com and over 18 million e-readers are expected to be sold in 2012. But these digital book services can collect extraordinarily detailed information: which books are browsed, how long each page is viewed, as well as digital notes made in the margins. Current law didn't anticipate this new digital reality. Without strong privacy protections reading records can be increasingly targeted by government surveillance as well as in legal proceedings like divorce cases and custody battles.
The United States has a long and proud history of legal protection for reading privacy, and the California Constitution has had especially strong privacy and free speech protections. Courts have long recognized that reader privacy must be protected to avoid a chilling effect on freedom of expression as well as to maintain consumer trust. We laud the efforts of everyone who endorsed and helped get this bill passed.