January 25, 2022

Campaign For Reader Privacy Renews Call to Amend Patriot Act

The Campaign for Reader Privacy consists of the following organizations:

  • ALA
  • American Booksellers Association
  • Association of American Publishers
  • PEN American Center

Here’s the full text of a statement that the organization that was released on Wednesday:

Two years ago, Congress voted to extend Section 215 of the Patriot Act without addressing weaknesses in the law that allow the government to gather information about law-abiding citizens’ private lives. It did so despite evidence that Section 215 and other post-9/11 surveillance powers were being abused.

Just how serious the abuses have been is now clear:

  • We now know that Section 215 was used to compile records of the phone calls of Verizon business customers and the customers of other major U.S. telecommunications carriers—without regard to whether those customers were suspected of involvement in terrorism or any other illegal activity.
  • We know that the National Security Agency conducted other programs that included collecting metadata about Internet communications without warrants or probable cause—even after the Bush administration’s own attorney general refused to reauthorize one such program on the grounds that it was unconstitutional.
  • We know that the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court not only has approved virtually every government application to exercise its massive surveillance powers, but has also issued opinions regarding the legality of those new spying powers that remain secret and shielded from public and constitutional review.

It is time to correct that mistake—and to start reining in our government’s runaway surveillance programs. 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.

See Also: We recently shared several comments (and also made them on a panel at ALA)  about how much more needs to be done by the library community to increase transparency and ensure privacy when it comes to e-books and other electronic resources accessible via libraries.. Our post is titled, Adding Transparency to the Ebook Transaction.”
About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.