The ACLU of Northern California has released an issue paper, “Digital Books: A New Chapter for Reader Privacy.” This is the second in a series of issue papers discussing the implications for individuals of new technology trends. (The first is: “Cloud Computing: Storm Warning for Privacy?”) From “Digital Books”:
[A]s books move into digital form, new reader privacy issues are emerging. In stark contrast to libraries that retain as little information about readers as possible, 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. Retaining and strengthening reader privacy in the digital age requires a thorough examination of the potential privacy and free speech implications of digital book services and the establishment of laws and policies that properly protect readers. […]
Part I of this paper discusses the history of strong legal and policy protections for reader privacy. Part II covers the emerging privacy issues related to digital book services, and Part III evaluates whether existing legal protections are sufficient to address these issues. Finally, Part IV proposes policy and legislative steps that should be taken to safeguard reader privacy for the digital age. For more information about digital books and other online privacy and emerging technology issues, please visit the ACLU of Northern California Demand Your dotRights campaign website at www.dotrights.org. […]
As digital books become more popular, it is critical for companies, policymakers, and public interest groups to work together to: (1) develop robust protections related to information collection, use, and disclosure of digital book records; (2) aggressively defend reader privacy; and (3) update and develop new laws to ensure clear protections for digital reading records.