Ebooks have many advantages, but as Techdirt has reported in the past, there are dangers too, particularly in a world of devices routinely connected to the Net.
Back in 2010, we wrote about how Amazon was remotely uploading information about the user notes and highlights you took on your Kindle. More recently, we reported on how a school was using electronic versions of textbooks to spy on students as they read them. Against that background, you would have thought by now that companies would be sensitive to these kinds of issues. But if Nate Hoffelder is right, there’s a big privacy problem with Adobe’s Digital Editions 4, its free ebook reading app.
Here’s what Hoffelder writes on his blog, The Digital Reader:
Adobe is tracking users in the app and uploading the data to their servers. (Adobe was contacted in advance of publication, but declined to respond.)
Adobe is gathering data on the ebooks that have been opened, which pages were read, and in what order. All of this data, including the title, publisher, and other metadata for the book is being sent to Adobe’s server in clear text.
Yes, not only is the app spying on you, but it is sending personal information unencrypted over the Net. And it seems that this is not just about the ebook you are currently reading:
Adobe isn’t just tracking what users are doing in DE4; this app was also scanning my computer, gathering the metadata from all of the ebooks sitting on my hard disk, and uploading that data to Adobe’s servers.
These are all serious accusations, and completely unacceptable if confirmed. At the very least, an independent investigation by Ars Technica has now confirmed all of the important details, though Adobe has still stayed silent. However, this also highlights why many people prefer to use pirated editions without DRM, which can be read on any suitable software: not because they’re free, but because they’re better products in just about every way — for example, in respecting your privacy.