Oct 9, 2014

Adobe spies on reading habits over unencrypted web because your ‘privacy is important’



That’s their story and they’re sticking to it.
However, what they collect and the stated reasons for collecting it, says publisher requirements and piracy paranoia are the reasons.

From THE REGISTER:

Adobe confirmed its Digital Editions software insecurely phones home your ebook reading history to Adobe – to thwart piracy.
And the company insisted the secret snooping is covered in its terms and conditions.
Version 4 of the application makes a note of every page read, and when, in the digital tomes it accesses, and then sends that data over the internet unencrypted to Adobe.
This Orwellian mechanism was spotted by Nate Hoffelder of The Digital Reader blog; the plaintext information transmitted also includes the title, publisher, and other metadata about the ebooks. This data is needed, we’re told, for enforcing the usage licenses covering the books.
“All information collected from the user is collected solely for purposes such as license validation and to facilitate the implementation of different licensing models by publishers,” Adobe said in a statement.
Adobe explained that the data it collects is for digital rights management (DRM) mechanisms that may be demanded by publishers to combat piracy, and gave a detailed list of what and why it needs such specific information:
User ID: The user ID is collected to authenticate the user.
Device ID: The device ID is collected for digital right management (DRM) purposes since publishers typically restrict the number of devices an eBook or digital publication can be read on.
Certified app ID: The Certified App ID is collected as part of the DRM workflow to ensure that only certified apps can render a book, reducing DRM hacks and compromised DRM implementations.
Device IP: The device IP is collected to determine the broad geo-location, since publishers have different pricing models in place depending on the location of the reader purchasing a given eBook or digital publication.
Duration for which the book was read: This information is collected to facilitate limited or metered pricing models where publishers or distributors charge readers based on the duration a book is read. For example, a reader may borrow a book for a period of 30 days. While some publishers/distributers charge for 30-days from the date of the download, others follow a metered pricing model and charge for the actual time the book is read.
Percentage of the book read: This information is collected to allow publishers to implement subscription models where they can charge based on the percentage of the book read. For example, some publishers charge only a percentage of the full price if only a certain percentage of the book is read.

The CERTIFIED APP tracking has nothing to do with authenticating the ebook and, by their own admission, everything to do with “piracy” concerns. Which suggests that sending a full library scan every time one ebook is opened is no accident or bad coding.

All of this data collection is something the user signs up to when he or she downloads the software, Adobe says, and is covered in section 14.1 of the end user license agreement (EULA), which states:
The Software may cause Customer’s Computer, without notice, to automatically connect to the Internet and to communicate with an Adobe website or Adobe domain for purposes such as license validation and providing Customer with additional information, features, or functionality.”
While the EULA does appear to give Adobe the authority to collect this data, it’s clear from our comments section that readers aren’t happy with the situation. Neither is the EFF, which is calling ADE 4 spyware.
“Sending this information in plaintext undermines decades of efforts by libraries and bookstores to protect the privacy of their patrons and customers,” said Corynne McSherry, the EFF’s intellectual property director.
“Indeed, in 2011 EFF and a coalition of companies and public interest groups helped pass the Reader Privacy Act, which requires the government and civil litigants to demonstrate a compelling interest in obtaining reader records and show that the information contained in those records cannot be obtained by less intrusive means. But if readers are using Adobe’s software, it’s all too easy for folks to bypass those restrictions.”

It should be noted that the epub3 specification allows for similar data collection direct from the ebook itself, but no epub3 reading app to date has implemented it.

(DBW documented this back in 2012.)

Thus, Adobe might have felt compelled to offer the “feature” themselves.



Felix
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