Some recent news has come to light surrounding Adobe Digital Editions and the way it collects information about eBook use. In an effort to stay on top of the situation, we wanted to provide some background to the news and how Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is responding.
What is happening
Adobe Digital Editions is a piece of software designed to handle Digital Rights Management, or DRM. It’s a security tool that protects things like eBooks from being copied and widely distributed. Publishers often require DRM in their materials as a safeguard against piracy. In the library context, this also enables library eBooks to act like their print counterparts – that is to say, books that are “returned” once they hit their expiration date. If you check out eBooks from Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh on your desktop or laptop computer, you were probably required to download the Adobe Digital Editions client.
Blogger Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader discovered that Adobe Digital editions is keeping an ongoing record of any items that have checked in with Adobe Digital Editions, as well as the items held on any device that syncs with Adobe Digital Editions. So if you have Adobe Digital Editions on your computer, and you connect an eReader or tablet to it, it will check in with that “mother ship” and ADE will log the eBooks on that device.
This data collection is limited to eBook data that goes through the Adobe Digital Editions on your desktop computer. However, if you connect a device to that computer, ADE will log those ebooks to its record. So if you connect an iPad, Nook, or other eReader to your computer, Adobe will look for eBooks on that device and track that information.
On one level, this is both overly invasive and troubling. But the biggest problem is that this data is then sent to Adobe in an unencrypted format – which raises some serious red flags from a security standpoint.
What isn’t happening
Adobe isn’t crawling through your hard drive. A series of independent tests demonstrated that Adobe is keeping an ongoing record of any items that have checked in with Adobe Digital Editions, and checked a number of variables to verify the extent of the data logging. While these data logs are certainly a serious issue, Adobe Digital Editions is not searching your computer for other types of private or personal information.
What you can do
If you’re checking out eBooks through the OverDrive app, sending eBooks to your Kindle, or using OverDrive READ to view eBooks through your browser, this issue won’t affect you. Likewise for eAudiobooks, which don’t use Adobe Digital Editions at all.
If you are downloading eBooks through your desktop computer, a good temporary solution would be to use the OverDrive READ feature to read books through your browser. Adobe has promised a fix, and we will be looking out for any updates to Adobe Digital Editions 4.
The previous version of Adobe Digital Editions has been found not to collect data in this way. If you like, you can uninstall ADE 4.0 from your computer, and download ADE 3.0 from the Adobe website.
What we’re doing
We love our eCLP collection, and we know you’ve come to love it as well. Using new online services always raises some major concerns about the balance between privacy and convenience. As an institution that holds your privacy in extremely high regard while making things as convenient and easy to use as possible, we definitely have to weigh one issue in contrast with the other.
We are sending a letter to OverDrive (our primary eBook vendor) alerting them to our concerns. Given that we have a direct relationship with OverDrive, we think raising the issue to them will be the best way to make our voice heard. We are also discussing this matter with members of ReadersFirst, a national organization devoted to improving eBook access and services for library users. The American Library Association has also issued a statement.
We’ll continue to monitor the situation and make sure to keep you informed about any issues we encounter regarding our third-party vendors.
If you have concerns, we want to hear from you. Please contact Toby Greenwalt, Director of Digital Strategy and Technology Integration at firstname.lastname@example.org.