Protecting Reader Privacy in Digital Books

Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence Privacy 2010 Symposium

6 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2010

See all articles by Jennifer Lynch

Jennifer Lynch

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

Nicole Ozer

ACLU of Northern California

Date Written: January 1, 2010


What you choose to read says a lot about who you are, what you value, and what you believe. That’s why you should be able to learn about anything from politics to health without worrying that someone is looking over your shoulder. However, as 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: who they are, what books they browse and read, and even how long a given page is viewed, and the notes written in the “margins.” Without strong privacy protections, all of this browsing and reading history can be collected, analyzed, and may end up in the hands of the government or third parties without a 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 of the laws and policies that are needed to properly protect readers. Part I of this article discusses the history of strong legal and policy protections for reader privacy. Part II discusses current developments in digital book services. Part III discusses emerging privacy and free speech issues related to digital book services. Part IV proposes some policy and legislative solutions.

Keywords: digital books, google, first amendment, privacy, fourth amendment, libraries, ethics

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Lynch, Jennifer and Ozer, Nicole, Protecting Reader Privacy in Digital Books (January 1, 2010). Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence Privacy 2010 Symposium, Available at SSRN:

Jennifer Lynch (Contact Author)

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) ( email )

815 Eddy St
San Francisco, CA 94109
United States

HOME PAGE: http://

Nicole Ozer

ACLU of Northern California ( email )

39 Drumm Street
San Francisco, CA 94111
United States


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