A renewed push to protect the privacy of American readers

Following revelations about the reach of the United States government’s controversial surveillance programs, groups representing publishers, booksellers, libraries, and authors have renewed their push for amendments to the USA Patriot Act. In a statement released yesterday, the Campaign for Reader Privacy said:

The Campaign for Reader Privacy calls on Congress and on the President to take the first step by passing legislation this year that will restore privacy protections for book sales and library lending records. What law-abiding Americans are reading is nobody’s business. Since 2004, the Campaign for Reader Privacy, which represents librarians, booksellers, authors and publishers, has been working to restore protections to guard the confidentiality of bookstore and library records that were stripped under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Two years ago, Democratic and Republican members of Congress introduced a bill requiring the government to show that those whose reading records it wishes to gather are actually suspected of criminal activity—something that is required by the Fourth Amendment, which protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the First Amendment, which guards our right to access information of our own choosing. But Congress ignored that bill and reauthorized what we now know are flawed, dangerous powers.

Founded in 2004, the Campaign for Reader Privacy is an initiative of the American Booksellers Association, PEN American Center, Association of American Publishers, and the American Library Association. The coalition has focused its efforts on rolling back provisions of section 215 of the Patriot Act and has previously requested that Congress add three specific changes to the law: a requirement that the person whose records are sought be suspected of terrorism; a provision authorizing booksellers and librarians to challenge Section 215 orders in court; and a limit on the gag orders that are imposed on booksellers and librarians who receive Section 215 orders. Shelf Awareness has more on yesterday’s statement.