State senators, including Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, have unanimously voted for a reader privacy bill that would require government agencies to seek a warrant before accessing consumers’ reading records from bookstores and online retailers.
SB 602 — called the Reader Privacy Act of 2011 by its author, Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco — now goes to the Assembly.
The civil liberties legislation, if passed, will update California state law to ensure that government and third parties cannot access Californians’ reading records without proper justification, Yee said.
It would establish consumer protections for book purchases similar to long-established privacy laws for library records, he said.
“Individuals should be free to buy books without fear of government intrusion and witch hunts,” he wrote in a news release. “If law enforcement has reason to suspect wrongdoing, they can obtain a warrant for such information.”
During fearful times, the government grows more intrusive and privacy comes under attack, Yee noted.
During the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s, for example, Americans were questioned about whether they had read Marx or Lenin. In the years following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the FBI sought patron information from more than 200 libraries, he said.
Last year, Amazon was asked by the North Carolina Department of Revenue to turn over 50 million purchase records, including books, videos and other expressive material, Yee said.
Electronic or digital books now outsell paperbacks on Amazon.com and more than 18 million e-readers are expected to be sold in 2012.