Adobe Digital Editions and Privacy Concerns

Submitted by libwyckoff on
Filed under Library News:  e-Resources Web Resources

We learned earlier this week that Adobe Digital Editions 4, the software used to download many of the Library’s e-books, has been reported to be logging data on books used with this application. Reports indicate that this information is being uploaded in plain-text to Adobe servers without encryption, meaning that the data is potentially open to interception. Note that this privacy breach seems to be limited to Digital Editions 4, the most recent version of the software. Ars Technica has independently confirmed many details of the logging and a number of other sources have reported on it as well. As far as can be detected, Digital Editions v.2 and 3 are unaffected, and testing by Scholars Portal here in Ontario suggests that PDF-formatted downloads are similarly not affected.

McMaster University Library provides access to more than 500,000 e-books on a range of platforms. Most of these can be read online without the need to download to a personal device or use Adobe Digital Editions. In cases where full-book downloading is permitted--at McMaster this is chiefly those titles available through the EBL platform--digital rights management (DRM) requirements drive the use of Adobe Digital Editions. This is a condition of purchase that has been unavoidable for all libraries providing e-book content on this platform.

If you are concerned about this possible violation of privacy, we recommend that you uninstall Adobe Digital Editions 4 and view the book online instead of downloading it. For the few titles where this is not possible, check for a print copy in the Library Catalogue. Additionally, if you prefer, you can at no charge install an earlier, unaffected version of Adobe Digital Editions for use when downloading e-books to your personal device. We will continue to monitor this situation and keep you updated on developments.