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Wimberly, Jasey & Benson ‘Reader Privacy Act’ To Upgrade NJ Book Privacy Laws Clears Assembly Panel

Wimberly, Jasey & Benson ‘Reader Privacy Act’ To Upgrade NJ Book Privacy Laws Clears Assembly Panel

Measure Would Extend Library Privacy Protections to Book Purchases, Including E-Books

(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Benjie E. Wimberly, Mila M. Jasey and Daniel R. Benson sponsored to place readers and purchases of books and electronic books under similar protections as library records by expanding New Jersey’s reader privacy law was released Thursday by an Assembly panel.
The sponsors note the invention of digital books and e-readers has raised questions around the country about privacy and broadening protections to include these new literary mediums. California and Arizona enacted similar legislation in 2011 extending library privacy laws to include digital book records.

“E-books and online purchases have redefined the way we read, buy and borrow books,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “These new methods raise questions regarding privacy and disclosure of personal information. Current law is simply too antiquated to adequately provide for confidentiality in the digital age. Individuals should be allowed to read, shop without fear of intrusion. Just as with books you borrow at the library, your e-book preferences should also remain private.”

The bill (A-1396) would enact the “Reader Privacy Act,” which extends reader privacy protections to book purchases, including the purchase of electronic books.

Under current law, library records that contain the names and other personally identifying details regarding library users are confidential and protected from disclosure except in certain circumstances. The bill defines “book service” as a service that provides the rental, purchase, borrowing, browsing, or viewing of books.

“Times are changing rapidly in this evolving Internet era,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “The truth is privacy has become more difficult to maintain in a world absorbed by the internet and social media platforms. However, we must try to keep up. Extending library privacy laws to embrace the new ways people can acquire books is essential to keeping in step with times.”

The sponsors also noted a Wall Street Journal article, published July 2012, “Your E-Book Is Reading You,” discussing the types of information merchants and retailers now have access to through electronic readers and from purchases made through mega-merchants such as Amazon.

“It’s very intimidating how much information can be gathered from an e-reader and your purchases,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “With this legislation, New Jersey would continue to support innovation while beginning to look at greater protections for individuals who enjoy reading by electronic device.”

Under the bill’s provisions, a provider of a book service many only disclose the personal information of a book service user in the following circumstances:

  • To law enforcement in an ongoing criminal investigation;
  • To a person, private entity or non-law enforcement government entity in pursuant to a court order;
  • With a book service user’s informed consent;
  • In cases of imminent danger or death or serious physical injury requiring the immediate disclosure;
  • If the provider believes that the personal information is evidence directly related to a crime against the provider or that user.

The bill cleared the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee.