The American Library Association (ALA) has just issued a statement welcoming Adobe’s software update fix for its much-publicized ebook reader data leak from Adobe Digital Editions, but also took the occasion to warn of the problems and risks created by continuing data retention by most ebook platform operators, publishers, and retailers. Carolyn Anthony and Erika Linke, co-chairs of the ALA Digital Content Working Group (DCWG), said:
Librarians have long been guardians of and advocates for reader privacy. The plain text transmission of reader data by Adobe Digital Editions over the internet was clearly a privacy violation for all users of the ADE 4.0 version software and demanded swift corrective action.
However, they then went on to add: “Beyond data transmission, ALA continues to be concerned about the amount of data collected and retained by all vendors within the e-book ecosystem. Transparency to users is one important step, but we all must work to help ensure that only data necessary for user functionality are collected, are properly protected, are not sold for profit or used for other secondary purposes, and are deleted as soon as possible. Working with ALA’s Intellectual Freedom Committee and others, the DCWG will continue to investigate these issues, advocate with publishers and distributors, establish best practices to protect reader privacy, and secure the best possible licensing terms for libraries and our readers.”
It goes without saying that, if the ALA thinks there is a problem, there likely is a problem – which heavy DRM can only make worse. And Adobe Digital Editions has been broadly popular with the book trade outside the Kindle camp because of its relatively heavy DRM capabilities. The ALA appears to be blowing the whistle on this particular DRM own goal.