Friday, May 6, 2011

California considers bill that would require search warrant before police can look at list of e-book purchases

From the BNA Electronic Commerce and Law Report (password protected):

Law enforcement and other government officials in California would be required to obtain a court issued search warrant in order to access the personal information of individuals regarding their purchase of books in either paper or electronic form under a bill (S.B. 602) that received clearance from the Senate Appropriations Committee May 3 to proceed to a second reading on the floor.
“Individuals should be free to buy books without fear of government intrusion and witch hunts. If law enforcement has reason to suspect wrongdoing, they can obtain a warrant for such information,” bill sponsor Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), said in an April 12 statement welcoming the Senate Judiciary Committee's unanimous approval of the measure earlier the same day.
The growth in the market for digital books prompted introduction of the legislation, Yee said. In statements since the bill was introduced in February, Yee has stressed that protecting the privacy of book purchasers and readers is urgent, given the amount of information digital book services, such as Amazon and Google, collect in tracking book e-reader purchases and online usage.
Yee said S.B. 602 would update consumer protections for book purchases and readership online to bring them in line with “similar long-established privacy laws for library records.”
Other Allowable Releases of Reader Personal Data
“Personal information” is defined under the proposed law as “[a]ny information that relates to, or is capable of being associated with, a particular user's access to or use of a book service or a book, in whole or in partial form,” including unique identifiers, such as an internet protocol address.
In addition to search warrant releases, S.B. 602—the Reader Privacy Act—would allow booksellers to reveal personal information in response to a court discovery order so long as the court had determined that there was a compelling need for such data and there were no less intrusive means available to gather the information. In that situation, individuals must be notified of the discovery order and given an opportunity to file objections with the court to the release of their information.
Booksellers and book services would also be allowed to release book purchaser or reader personal information to government officials without a warrant in emergency situations where the government asserts, and the book services provider “in good faith believes, that there is an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury requiring the immediate disclosure of the requested personal information.”
In addition, a bookseller or services provider may reveal reader personal information if it has a good faith belief the information is directly related to a crime carried out against the vendor or the reader.
Individual Lawsuits, $500 Penalty for Knowing Violations
Readers would be authorized under the proposed law to bring lawsuits against book sellers and book services that “knowingly” provided government officials with their personal information outside of the allowable bases for doing so. Individuals could seek civil penalties of $500 per violation.
In addition to any penalties imposed under an individual right of action, the state attorney general, and state and local prosecutors, would be authorized to seek additional civil penalties of $500 per knowing violation.
S.B. 602 would also require book sellers and book services to post an annual report online detailing the number and type of requests for reader personal information it received and responded to in the preceding year.
According to Yee, S.B. 602 is supported by, among others, the California Affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Google Inc., the Consumer Federation of California, and Californians Aware.

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