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Wimberly ‘Reader Privacy Act’ To Upgrade NJ Reader Privacy Laws Clears Committee

In an effort to expand New Jersey’s law on reader privacy when it comes to book and electronic book purchases, the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee advanced legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly with a vote of 4-0 on Monday. This measure would place these purchases under similar protections as library records.

The sponsor noted that 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 simply is too antiquated to adequately provide for confidentiality in the digital age. Individuals should be allowed to read and 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-2163) would enact the “Reader Privacy Act” to extend reader privacy protections to book purchases, including the purchase of electronic books.

Under current law, library records that contain the names and other identifying details regarding library users are confidential and protected from disclosure except in certain circumstances. This bill extends similar protections to purchasers of books and e-books.

Under the bill, a law enforcement entity or other government entity may only seek disclosure of the personal information of an individual who uses a book service, defined as “a service that, as its primary purpose, provides for the rental, purchase, borrowing, browsing or viewing of books,” if disclosure is requested or consented to by the user or if disclosure is pursuant to a subpoena or court order.

In addition to making it illegal to seek disclosure of said information, the measure would make it illegal for booksellers, including audiobook sellers, to disclose the information unless permitted by the user or required by a subpoena or court order.

The bill makes an exception for campus booksellers who must disclose the information in order to be reimbursed for book sales and rentals by students using book vouchers or other financial aid subsidies. It also makes an exception for cases in which a law enforcement entity asserts that there is an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury requiring the immediate disclosure of the requested personal information and that there is insufficient time to obtain a subpoena or court order.