A New Approach to Digital Reader Privacy: State Regulations and Their Protection of Electronic Book Data

26 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2014

See all articles by Andrew A. Proia

Andrew A. Proia

Indiana University Bloomington - Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research; Seton Hall Law School

Date Written: 2013


On October 3, 2011, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Reader Privacy Act into law. Currently, book service providers within California are prohibited from disclosing to third parties personal information related to their users, including (1) information that “identifies, relates to, describes, or is associated with a particular user,” (2) a “unique identifier or Internet Protocol Address,” and (3) information that shows a “user’s access to or use of a book service or a book, in whole or in partial form.” The Act seeks to specifically protect all book formats, including electronic formats. Additionally, the Act establishes a highly protective court order process, requiring an entity to show a compelling interest in the book record and that the record sought cannot be obtained through less intrusive means before the record can be disclosed. For many, the Act is a triumph for privacy protection and champions a first-of-its-kind approach to a clear cut rule about when an entity can access an individual’s digital information related to his or her book reading habits. Others, however, see it as nothing more than protecting a miniscule segment of data available to exposure and can provide little protection against mass data collection by other state and federal entities. Thus, California’s Reader Privacy Act poses a critical question as new initiatives begin to shape the digital as digital books become more prominent in today’s society?

This Note argues that state regulations, such as California’s Reader Privacy Act, can provide the foundational framework for true digital reader privacy. With such a lack of regulations geared toward protecting the privacy interests of an individual’s digital content, specifically his or her digital book data, this Act could serve as the catalyst to multistate and federal regulations that effectively and efficiently create legal barriers in order to protect personal information related to digital books. Part I examines the architecture of digital books, and how their integration with technology and the Internet has created new legal issues about third-party access to a digital book reader’s personal information. Part II details how reader privacy has traditionally been addressed on the private, federal, and state levels. This Part also analyzes how California’s Reader Privacy Act seeks to address some of the concerns of digital reader privacy. Part III discusses how state regulations can fill the digital void left by laws and policies currently addressing reader privacy and online privacy, and how this could help formulate a national approach to protecting reader privacy in the digital age.

Keywords: information, privacy, Reader Privacy Act

JEL Classification: K19

Suggested Citation

Proia, Andrew and Proia, Andrew, A New Approach to Digital Reader Privacy: State Regulations and Their Protection of Electronic Book Data (2013). Indiana Law Journal, Vol. 88, No. 4, 2013, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2170357

Andrew Proia (Contact Author)

Seton Hall Law School ( email )

One Newark Center
Newark, NJ 07102-5210
United States

Indiana University Bloomington - Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research ( email )

Wylie Hall 105
100 South Woodlawn
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

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