OCUL Statement Regarding Security Concerns with Adobe Digital Editions 4 Reader

Posted on October 15, 2014

Statement from OCUL (Ontario Council of University Libraries), dated October 14, 2014

Recently OCUL was made aware of some privacy and security concerns around the newly released Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) 4 Reader. ADE Reader is the most commonly used desktop application for accessing e-books that contain Adobe’s DRM software.  The Adobe DRM is used by many booksellers and online library lending services such as Overdrive, ebrary, and Scholars Portal.

Reports indicate, and Adobe has since confirmed, that information about titles protected with Adobe’s DRM software are being passed to Adobe by the ADE 4 Reader and that this information is being transmitted from the ADE 4 Reader to Adobe in an unencrypted format.  The information is not being passed from the e-book lending service but rather from the client software (ADE 4 Reader) used to open the protected e-book.

This issue affects ePUB titles opened in Adobe Digital Editions only. It does not affect DRM-protected titles currently available on Scholars Portal Books, which are available exclusively in PDF.

While our own content is not affected by this issue, we recognize that recommending ADE for our own content will mean it is more likely to be used with other content, for example public library ePUBs.

We have previously recommended the ADE Reader based on its ubiquity, accessibility features, and ease of use, and will continue to deliver single user titles using the Adobe DRM.   We do recommend, however, that users with concerns about the operation of the new ADE 4 Reader be encouraged to use older versions of the software, which do not communicate reading activity to Adobe.  The ADE 3 Reader does not communicate with Adobe except to validate the license to unlock the DRM protected book. 

ADE 3 Reader is available for download at this address:http://www.adobe.com/support/digitaleditions/downloads.html.
 
Users may also choose to use tablet-based reader apps for iOS and Android such as Overdrive or the Bluefire Reader.   These apps can unlock e-books protected with the Adobe DRM but do not communicate reading statistics to Adobe.
 
Scholars Portal will adjust our borrowing pages to make users aware of this issue and of their reading options.  We are also reaching out to the vendor that provides us with Adobe Content Server, the application that we use to deliver Adobe DRM protected e-books, to express our concern about the behavior of the ADE 4 Reader and pass that concern on to Adobe.