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Books DRM Privacy

Adobe Spies On Users' eBook Libraries 150

New submitter stasike writes: Nate at the-digital-reader.com reports that Adobe is spying on any computer that runs Digital Editions 4, the newest version of Adobe's Epub app. They are collecting data about what users are reading, and they're also searching users' computers for e-book files and sending that information too. That includes books not indexed in DE4. All of the data is sent in clear text. This is just another example of DRM going south.
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Adobe Spies On Users' eBook Libraries

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  • Moo (Score:5, Funny)

    by Chacham ( 981 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @01:42PM (#48084751) Homepage Journal

    In Soviet Russia, you watch Adobe!

    Wait, wait, something's wrong here....

    • Re:Moo (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @01:56PM (#48084885)

      It's yet another example of how pirates provide better service to their customers than the legitimate retailers.

      • Re:Moo (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Russ1642 ( 1087959 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @02:18PM (#48085129)

        I played a DVD the other day, something I haven't done in a few years. It took damn near forever to get the actual movie playing. It was ad after ad for movies from ten years ago. Pirated movies are great. You hit play and the movie starts. That's it.

        • Re:Moo (Score:5, Informative)

          by meerling ( 1487879 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @03:09PM (#48085583)
          This pic is pretty much accurate...
          http://cdn-www.i-am-bored.com/media/7125_piratemoviechart.jpg
          • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @03:44PM (#48085971)

            The same graphic is true if you buy the DVD and rip it to MKV or MP4 or something. Hit enter and just play without a ton of ads/warnings. Of course, ripping a DVD - even one you've purchased yourself and thus own a valid copy of - violates the DMCA so I would never, ever do this. *whistles innocently*

            • Isn't converting legitimately owned content from one medium to another covered under fair use?

              • It is, but you aren't allowed to break the copy protection they put on it. They've put the content in a locked box and have said "You're free to do whatever you want with this content yourself (short of sharing it with others) just as long as you don't open the lock on this box."

                Practically speaking, you'll never see someone charged with ripping DVDs for their own personal use - not unless they were also sharing out said DVD rips. What the law really does is makes distributing DVD ripping tools illegal.

                • It is not illegal (in the US) to circumvent copy protection (DRM) if it's not for the primary purpose of violating copyright.

                  • The second point still stands though. It's illegal to distribute tools to circumvent copy protection. Suppose I wrote a program that easily let users rip their DVDs/Blu-Rays to MKV/MP4 files. If I used it on my own files and never gave the program to someone else, I'd be fine. If I set up a website and started giving it away (or selling it), I'd find myself dragged into court as soon as my program got on the MPAA's radar.

                    On the flip side, if I'm a user that wants to rip my legitimately purchased DVDs/Bl

                    • First, to be clear: It's illegal to distribute a tool primarily intended to circumvent DRM only if it "has limited commercially significant other uses or is marketed for the anti-circumvention purpose".

                      And yeah, I agree that it's stupid.

            • DMCA only applies to slaves owned by the USA government (in turn owned by large multi-national corporations).
              Citizens of other countries, and businesses not seeking to trade in the USA, don't have that problem.

              • The DMCA doesn't apply to other countries, but the US (really the media corporations who want draconian copyright laws and who have plenty of money to wave at politicians) is always trying to get other countries to adopt similar laws. So don't count on "I'm outside the US" to be the same as "I'm safe from the draconian US copyright laws."

          • LOL! That is so funny but sad because it is all too true. Could the publishers shit on the customers any more ...

            I propose a new movement for people selling digital goods:

            Respect My Time

            Guilty parties:
            - "freemium" pay-to-win "Social Games"
            - Any game you grind for gear ... Warframe, Defiance, Diablo 3
            - DVDs
            - BluRays

            Who else do we add to the Name & Shame list ?

        • I rent from Redbox and transfer to computer with makemkv. I then transcode with Handbrake.

          I haven't found a single instance where this didn't work.

        • Re:Moo (Score:5, Insightful)

          by steelfood ( 895457 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @03:54PM (#48086057)

          It was ad after ad for movies from ten years ago.

          The worst are the ads telling you not to pirate movies. Since you're seeing the ad, I think it'd be safe to assume you didn't pirate it. Because if you did pirate the movie, you certainly wouldn't be seeing that useless crap.

          The stupidity just boggles the mind sometimes.

          • It was ad after ad for movies from ten years ago.

            The worst are the ads telling you not to pirate movies. Since you're seeing the ad, I think it'd be safe to assume you didn't pirate it. Because if you did pirate the movie, you certainly wouldn't be seeing that useless crap.

            The stupidity just boggles the mind sometimes.

            It's actually kind of brilliant. They want their remaining paying customers to be afraid to pirate. To think it's difficult, immoral, and dangerous. To believe they made the right choice. Bonus points: make them feel superior to those who do pirate.

            They should probably include a short video of a an unattractive geek working really hard to hack something, followed by an image of a SWAT team kicking down a door and killing his puppy before arresting him.

        • How come these ads actually are unskippable? Shouldn't the DVD player be able to ignore it? Just like they ignore DVD regions. Living outside the US I've never seen unskippable ads on DVD, hell you expect to go to the menu and play.
          Use a PC with VLC and you're probably free to do whatever. How's it on a console? (PS2, PS3 etc.)

      • It's yet another example of how pirates provide better service to their customers than the legitimate retailers.

        Buying legitimate dead-tree books is still possible and does not come with the problem.

  • Is to send Adobe death threats and bomb threats through their own software.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @01:48PM (#48084813)

    The outrage needs to be swift and directly entirely at the fact that they are collecting this information in the first place not whether it is transmitted in plain text or encrypted.

    • The outrage needs to be swift and directly entirely at the fact that they are collecting this information in the first place

      Kindle reading apps and standalone readers also send exactly this same kind of information about books you download from Amazon. They do this to pay authors royalties for books that were loaned by other users or though KindleUnlimited or Prime.

      The difference here is that ADE sends info about any ePub you open with it, even if that file was downloaded by some other app, and even if it is not protected with Adobe DRM. I read everything through Calibre's reader, so I'm not really worried about this, even tho

    • It's still less intrusive than Amazon Kindle reporting every passage you highlight. It's all part of a larger conspiracy to sell more tin foil. Seriously though, oh Adobe, shame shame shame. Can I copyright the contents of my hard drive so they will be the pirates?
      • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

        you already have copyright to your contents you created.

        but I think they would try arguing that the fine print makes them able to do what they do. maybe they're doing it to later argue to own some random authors published ebooks, because their software uploaded information about them.

        ha.

  • by ilsaloving ( 1534307 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @01:52PM (#48084857)

    I can't even bring myself to be outraged by this sort of thing anymore, because it's become so expected.

    What's especially annoying though, is that so many *other* companies have hitched themselves to the DE bandwagon, that you cannot use their (what should be) completely legitimate services without getting bent over by Adobe. Library ebook rentals, for example, because most of them rely on Overdrive.

    • If a book can be converted to pdf without using adobe software, (use libre office's File | Export as PDF ...), why not. Google Books accepts pdf in addition to epub.
      • 'Digital Editions' is Adobe's DRM-thing. I think that it can be applied to PDFs (along with ePub and maybe others); but nobody uses it just to render PDFs. Unfortunately, this also means that you now need DMCA-banned circumvention tools just to read a damn library book without Adobe looking over your shoulder...
        • Unfortunately, this also means that you now need DMCA-banned circumvention tools just to read a damn library book without Adobe looking over your shoulder...

          Except, as has already been noted, that library book probably came through Overdrive which uses Adobe Digital Editions. Your criminal conspiracy to thwart publisher rights management needs the file that you don't get until ADE downloads it for you.

          Now, if you can tell me some other software that will handle the .acsm link and work with Overdrive that isn't ADE, I'm all ears.

      • by taustin ( 171655 )

        You've clearly never tried to read a PDF on a book reader with a small screen.

        • The idea is to use the PDF as a submission format for eBooks you want to publish, such as google's Google Books platform.
          • by taustin ( 171655 )

            There's no point in submitting them for publication in a format that nobody is going to bother to read. PDFs are nice for stuff that's going to be printed. They're marginal on a desktop sized screen. They're utterly useless on a bookreader sized screen.

            And PDFs can't be converted to other formats worth a damn, DRM or not.

            • Please try and understand what I wrote - PDF is a submission format for eBooks.

              It's NOT the final output format, which works fine on eReaders including my Android smartphone, or iPhones,, or whatever.

              • Pdf is a terrible format for anything really, let alone ebooks its an end format not easily converted into something else. each line of text on the page is a line it doesn't have a concept of a paragraph. It only seems to know the order that text was added to it. e.g if you had 4 bullet points added as 1,2,3,4 and later edited to read 1,4, 2, 3.
                translating to another format becomes 1,2,3,4 again.

                Having more than 1 column of text converting becomes a block of text where the first line of column 1 is followed

                • Thanks for the feedback. As I pointed out to another comment, pdf has its uses, and sigil and caliber let you do epub directly. My point was that it IS possible to use pdf as a submission format, and if all you have is text (no tables, no fancy formatting) why not use it?

                  Of course, the real use is to let others preview your stuff so they can give feedback on the content - not the layout - before you save it in ePUB format. Content, not formatting, is king :-)

                  And for those like me, who can type faster (

                  • Go on do it pick a pdf that has anything more complicated than a single column of text and try to convert it to epub. Try and make sentences flow correctly try a few lists for fun and any table you like. after wasting half a day or more trying to wrestle it into submission. find an interesting web page and convert it into epub don't spend more than 15 minutes with it. Compare and contrast with the still some what messed up pdf version.

                    Once you have done this you will hate pdf because its really not that po

                    • My writing generally doesn't include lists, tables, etc. for formatting. That being said, I've also got sigil, caliber, and the directions from IBM developerWorks on how to create an ePUB completely by hand - which is always handy to know :-)
        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          Use a ten inch Boox and turn the thing sideways for half a page of the PDF at a time.
    • Library ebook rentals, for example, because most of them rely on Overdrive.

      Overdrive also offers books in Kindle format that you download from Amazon. If you don't have a Kindle, get the Kindle app for PC/Mac/Android/iOS/whatever.

  • by Mysticalfruit ( 533341 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @01:55PM (#48084883) Homepage Journal
    I guess I was surprised that Adobe has an ereader app. Yet another reason to not use Adobe's products.
    • I guess I was surprised that Adobe has an ereader app. Yet another reason to not use Adobe's products.

      Overdrive.

      Adobe's e-reader REQUIRED if you want to check out e-books from most libraries.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        They probably added that functionality to try to identify copies made of files borrowed from those libraries. When all you borrowed is data, there's no way to prove you didn't copy the data. This has been technically true since the invention of photocopiers, but the incidental cost to photocopy a novel is much greater than the incidental cost to copy a pdf to another folder.

        So, yeah, probably DRM nonsense, but I'm prone to think that libraries trying to get some form of late fees for pdfs are as at fault

        • They probably added that functionality to try to identify copies made of files borrowed from those libraries. When all you borrowed is data, there's no way to prove you didn't copy the data.

          Yeah, except the DRM prevents you opening the file after it has expired. (At least for most people, I don't know if it has been cracked.)

          • by Anonymous Coward

            > Yeah, except the DRM prevents you opening the file after it has expired. (At least for most people, I don't know if it has been cracked.)

            It has. :)

          • by gmhowell ( 26755 )

            And knowing is half the battle [wordpress.com]. (Not sure if this is what the AC was referring to.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I've never had to load or run any Adobe software to use Overdrive. I'm always transferred from the Overdrive site to Amazon, where I can send the book to whichever Kindle option (reader or app), I choose.

      • Overdrive.

        Adobe's e-reader REQUIRED if you want to check out e-books from most libraries.

        As I said in another post, Overdrive also offers Kindle format books that you download from Amazon.

    • The only reason I even have Digital Editions on my computer is so I can download DRM-locked ePubs from the Kobo and Google Books stores and decrypt them with ePUBee. My solution now will be to install Digital Editions in a virtual machine, run it just long enough to do the decrypt and move all the files off the virtual machine.

      A big fuck you to Adobe, as well.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @02:02PM (#48084947)

    Yet another reason why I don't like Adobe or their products.

    They suck at security, and they don't give a rat's ass about your privacy.

    Fuck you Adobe. Fuck you.

  • I guess when I saw the first letter in the word Adobe I thought this was Amazon. My first reaction was that you now can't buy the books you might want to read from Amazon and even if you can get them somehow, Amazon will know.

    Adobe's tactic may give Amazon an idea. Too bad.
  • I'd really want to see what really happened first. Everyone is getting outraged, but different Macs and iPads in my home figure out what page of a book I have been reading and display that page if I read the same book on a different device, so I'm quite sure the information goes through some server at Apple first.

    I'd hope the information is sent encrypted (https would be a good way to do this) and is stored encrypted, but on the other hand I would trust Apple to not look at that information.

    So is ther
    • So is there any good reason why Adobe would do this that benefits the customer?

      Yes.

      "I see you are reading 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion'. Adobe recommends the following books: 'Mein Kampf' by A. Hitler, 'Banking and Currency and the Money Trust' by C.A. Lindbergh, and 'God is Not Great' by C. Hitchens."

    • This outrage is not about syncing books.
      This is about Adobe Digital Editions 4 searching the disk for books that have *not* been added to ADE library and sending reports home about those books. Without any permision and without any indication they are sending info about files on your computer to an outside server.
      This is about sending the info in cleartext, so every computer along the way from your PC to Adobe server can read about your reading habits and about the files you keep in unrelated directories.

  • by wcrowe ( 94389 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @02:18PM (#48085133)

    At first I thought, "How do they get away with this?" Then I realized, it's probably in the EULA somewhere that everyone clicks on and nobody actually reads.

  • by geantvert ( 996616 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @02:18PM (#48085137)

    ... found my favorite e-book: "'Alice In Wonderlands) ; DROP TABLE Books ; --.epub"

  • by dysmal ( 3361085 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @02:19PM (#48085163)

    If history repeats its self, this "feature" will be buggy and need constant patching. They'll then spin it off as a cloud service where it'll cost you more to spy on yourself and yet spy less.

  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @02:24PM (#48085211)
    ... so I know they are private and secure from prying eyes.
  • DRM vs. Pirating (Score:4, Interesting)

    by briancox2 ( 2417470 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @02:49PM (#48085381) Homepage Journal
    Supporting DRM is morally worse than supporting pirating. At least with supporting pirating, no one gets hurt.
    • Aside from all the people who invested their money and effort into authoring, editing, typesetting/formatting, publishing, distributing, and promoting that content which you oh-so-morally just take for free? Just because the incremental cost to run off another copy is close to zero doesn't mean there isn't a very real unit cost. Do the terms "up-front costs", "return on investment", "opportunity cost", "overhead", or "profit margin" mean anything to you?

      By your argument, it's just fine and harmless and mora

    • by brit74 ( 831798 )
      Yup, just like counterfeiting money. Show me one person harmed by my creation of counterfeit money. You CAN'T! Therefore I'm right! [/sarcasm]
  • by AnotherBlackHat ( 265897 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @02:52PM (#48085409) Homepage

    If Digital Editions, or any other program, is sending meta-data about the contents of hard drives, then they deserve to what they get.

    I picture a small program that creates millions of pseudo-random file names ending with .epub, .pdf, or whatever else D.E. is scanning for.
    I'd certainly be willing to dedicate a few gig to the task, I'm sure there are several thousand others who feel the same.

    • by Timothy Hartman ( 2905293 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @03:34PM (#48085873)
      If they aren't encrypting they probably aren't set up on whatever is reading these for SQL injection or all sorts of other fun. Could be hilarious actually.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Yeah; I think everyone needs a copy of "'Alice In Wonderlands) ; DROP TABLE Books ; --.epub" as mentioned by geantvert earlier in this thread. There's a few other titles that are equally entertaining that are must-reads.

      • Injection attacks or other unsanitized data.
        Material that you (or Disney) hold the copyright to.
        Anything illegal to export/import (nuclear secrets, cryptography)
        Sensitive personal information of important people.
        Any information Homeland has forbidden you from discussing.
        Even just the simple volume of the material could be a problem. (Of course the list of my ebooks is 24 terabytes, why how big is yours?)

        The list of things they can get into trouble just having a copy of is almost endless.

    • If Digital Editions, or any other program, is sending meta-data about the contents of hard drives, then they deserve to what they get.

      I picture a small program that creates millions of pseudo-random file names ending with .epub, .pdf, or whatever else D.E. is scanning for.
      I'd certainly be willing to dedicate a few gig to the task, I'm sure there are several thousand others who feel the same.

      They won't care about your bogus files. Just stop using Digital Editions and send them a proper feedback in which you calmly tell them how you feel they are violating your privacy.

  • by Rick Zeman ( 15628 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @03:06PM (#48085555)

    ...if Adobe had used encryption no one would have known that the hard drives were being scraped of epub data.

  • That's not DRM (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mknewman ( 557587 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @03:08PM (#48085571)
    That's spyware.
    • I wonder if one could argue that the person who installed the computer did not understand the EULA, and therefore no contract was formed.

      At that point, Adobe could sue the user for copyright infringement, and the user could request criminal prosecution of Adobe for computer hacking.

    • You're right man. Shame on them.
    • by brit74 ( 831798 )
      Yup, but lots of Slashdotters love to get any angry about DRM and that's pageviews, baby!
  • by rotenberry ( 3487 ) on Tuesday October 07, 2014 @03:08PM (#48085577)

    Anyone who has an ebook reader with Wi-Fi is asking for trouble.

    It will be a sad day for me when my Sony PRS-300 reader fails to start. This reader has no Wi-Fi.

    What is that I hear you say? Turn off the Wi-Fi on the reader? Please, how naive do you think I am?

    "The only controls available to those on board were two push-buttons on the center post of the cabin -- one labeled on and one labeled off. The on button simply started a flight from Mars. The off button connected to nothing. It was installed at the insistence of the Martian mental-health experts, who said that human beings were always happier with machinery they thought they could turn off."

    - Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan

  • ..Like Okular on Linux, etc. I'm not fond of any program contacting the mother-ship without my permission..

    When I was in college, I remember being nervous about checking out books in the library. The librarian assured me that your lending habits are not part of the public record. At the time, I was working in a physical chemistry research lab, and the books in question were locked up in the cage out of a concern for explosives and public safety.

    • by grnbrg ( 140964 )

      Yes, of course your lending habits are kept private, and legally protected. You can relax.

      The access logs of the security cage, on the other hand.....

    • After the Patriot Act, the American Library Association pushed policies where libraries would not keep any information about the patron who checked out a book once the book was returned, so that they could not tell the FBI whether person A had checked out book B under any coercion. The ALA is doing a better job of patriotism than the three-letter agencies, that's sure.

  • Congratulations to Adobe, as I would congratulate a fellow human being (since the supreme court ruling that corporations are people), for truly living the hardcore capitalist version of the American Dream. Doing whatever you can legally or illegally get away with to make more money, and not giving a [your favourite naughty word for excrement goes here] about anyone you walk over in the process.

    It is the spyware part which bothers me the most. It is like having a plummer come to fix your toilet, you step out

  • Even if he can be hard to handle, this is one of his core arguments. If you don't control your computer, your computer controls you. With proprietary software, you are basically handing control of your computer over to the software company. You can hope that are both honest and competent. Keep those fingers crossed...
    • With proprietary software, you are basically handing control of your computer over to the software company.

      Yes, commercial software is based on trust. We have now found out that Adobe does not respect our privacy and we can simply stop using their products. The system still works.

      • Yes, commercial software is based on trust. We have now found out that Adobe does not respect our privacy and we can simply stop using their products. The system still works.

        Maybe you forgot a smiley here? We run this risk every time we install and run a proprietary program - how often do you need your nude pictures, private medical records and credit card information leaked all over the internet?

        • It's not any different with open programs, as no one has the time to read the source code anyway. It always boils down to trust towards the vendor.
          • It's not any different with open programs, as no one has the time to read the source code anyway. It always boils down to trust towards the vendor.

            That's wrong. Not everyone has that time, but someone usually does have - and for popular programs, many people do take the time. That does not make the system completely fool-proof, but it does make hidden backdoors a lot less of a concern. If neither of two approaches is perfect, it does not mean that one is not vastly superior to the other. Take antibiotics and witchcraft as treatments for pneumonia....

            • That's wrong. Not everyone has that time, but someone usually does have - and for popular programs, many people do take the time.

              I doubt that. A lot of programs these days are tens or hundreds of thousands of lines of code. It takes months to go through that and familiarize oneself with the codebase. It's a feasible act only for the original developers.

  • Since this idiocy is in plain text, anyone want to collaborate on a sniffer that will replace the names of books with "Eff you, Adobe! Shame on you for Spying on your Customers!"? And of course that will kill switch it as soon as the bastards move to encrypt it...
  • Want to read the same book on your tablet and your phone? Think about how Kindle or other reading location sync is implemented. With free epubs one can developed somewhat more privacy-friendly algorithms. If publishers want a (somewhat reasonable) assurance that a given purchase is not being read on 500 devices at the same time, this is much harder task. I would say that this is likely part incompetence part technical necessity rather than malicious intent. They certainly shouldn't be sending data as plain

    • The reader scanned all the books it could find, regardless of source or activity, and reported back to Adobe. That is not incompetence or technical necessity. It is malicious intent.
      • by iamacat ( 583406 )

        Ever worked in a big company? It's always incompetence. Anything deemed the slightest bit controversial is avoided like fire. They just couldn't think of a way to solve whatever problem they were thinking of more elegantly, or forsee that anyone would analyze how their app works.

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