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Adobe e-reader spies on users reading habits and book collections

  • Published on October 20, 2014
Adobe e-reader spies on users reading habits and book collections
Adobe Digital Editions is the e-book reader from Adobe Systems for viewing ebook files on desktop and notebook computers, both Mac and Windows. The core technology is also used in some popular e-reading devices as well. Many libraries also use Adobe Digital Editions for their patrons to read electronic books from digital lending libraries. Recently security researches discovered that Adobe is recording information about the reading habits of users of Adobe Digital Editions, creating profound security and privacy implications for users who thought their reading choices were secure.
Adobe Digital Editions transmits its data logs to an Adobe server in plain text, over an unencrypted HTTP connection. Just as an average computer user wouldn't send their credit card information to an online storefront that isn't secure, most book users likely would not want their reading habits sent across the Internet for anyone to view. The American Library Association’s (ALA) deputy director, Deborah Caldwell-Stone, has stated that the ALA wants all transmitted information on library transactions to be encrypted, and the association has voiced opposition to Adobe's collection of this information.
Many librarians seek to protect their patrons' right to privacy about the information they read, and find Adobe's data collection and transmission to be disturbing. Because Adobe Digital Editions is used with the most popular e-book lending system, known as Overdrive, most American and Canadian users who have checked-out ebooks from their library have their reading habits at risk of being discovered. Information about all books being read appears to be sent back to Adobe as soon as it is added to a users digital collection on their computer.
Adobe servers receive information from Adobe Digital Editions each time a user opens an EPUB book, along with information about what books are in a users library, how long they've spent reading the books, and what page they last read. Adobe claims this information is used exclusively to determine if the reader should have access to the book, there appears to be little reason for Adobe to collect information about all books a user has added to their collection.
Adobe Digital Editions is one of the ebook creation tools used in the InDesign training classes delivered at American Graphics Institute. Based upon Adobe's data collection, other tools are likely to be used in future Adobe classes until Adobe provides assurances that reading history is not being collected and shared across the Internet, especially in plain text as is currently happening.

About the author

Christopher Smith is president of American Graphics Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. He is the publisher and editor of the Digital Classroom book series, which have sold more than one million copies. At American Graphics Institute, he provides strategic technology consulting to marketing professionals, publishers and to large technology companies including Google, Apple, Microsoft, and HP. An expert on web analytics and digital marketing, he delivers Google Analytics training along with workshops on digital marketing topics. He is also the author of more than 10 books on electronic publishing tools and technologies, including the Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies. Christopher did his undergraduate studies the at the University of Minnesota, and then worked for Quark, Inc. prior to joining American Graphics Institute where he has worked for 20 years.