There is one word that makes a librarian especially happy, and yesterday it was said again and again. “Neutrality” was the word of the day, as the Federal Communications Commission agreed to recognize Internet infrastructure as a public utility. This is exciting news. It has been an issue for over 10 years, starting in 2005 when the FCC voted to reclassify DSL broadband service, away from being an “information service” to instead be called a “telecommunications service,” effectively allowing Internet service providers to hide their infrastructure allowing it to be riddled with unfair practices.
But yesterday’s decision ensures that access to the Internet will be based on fair and equitable practices. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says: “the landmark open-Internet protections that we adopted today should reassure consumers, innovators and financial markets about the broadband future of our nation.”
So, next time you access Netflix, Twitter, Google, or one of Portland Public Library’s own digital resources, rest assured you’ll be connecting to each of these sites with the same network speeds available—not faster tiered levels of service (with companies paying for higher speeds) that prioritize network traffic to ensure streaming services are better quality and pages load faster.
Earlier this fall, it was discovered that Adobe Digital Editions 4.0 (a crucial piece of software for accessing library eBooks) was transferring data back to Adobe about the user’s reading choices in plain text. Not only was this confidential information accessible to anyone with a bit of technical savvy, but Adobe was also gathering data about other eBooks and materials on user’s devices. The Electronic Frontier Foundation was of the opinion that sending the data over plain text “undermines decades of efforts by libraries and bookstores to protect the privacy of their patrons and customers” even if Adobe’s practice was a mistake.
The Library responded to this situation in a blog post in October as did many other libraries around the country, and we are pleased to report that the situation has since improved.
There is now a patch in place with ADE version 4.0.1., and patrons should feel confident that their privacy is protected and secure with this update. The American Library Association commended Adobe for taking this action to make users’ information secure, but ALA continues to be wary “about the amount of data collected and retained by all vendors within the eBook ecosystem.”
As librarians, we have made a commitment to work together to pressure vendors to adhere to the highest standards of privacy the Library has long represented. In addition, librarians are working together to develop technical expertise to verify that privacy is respected at the digital programmatic level—something often invisible to both users and librarians—but often conspicuous to anyone with basic hacking skills seeking this information.
Please ensure your version of Adobe Digital Editions is updated to ADE 4.0.1 to incorporate the changes that will keep your personal information safe. If you need assistance with this, you can contact the Public Computing desk—871-1700 x 708.
Privacy is one of the main tenets of public libraries, so the recently exposed security concerns for patrons using Adobe Digital Editions to access library eBooks is very troubling to us at PPL.
You can read more about the developments here and here, but in short, if you are using the latest version of Adobe Digital Editions software, information about any eBooks on your computer delivered in the ePub format is being transmitted to Adobe in plain text format and is potentially visible to anyone who can read the stream of data.
NOTE: PPL’s eBook service is provided by Overdrive. Read below OverDrive’s statement about Adobe Digital Editions privacy concerns
UPDATE: 2:30 PM 10/10/14
In response to concerns expressed by our library partners about the Adobe privacy situation, OverDrive CEO Steve Potash met with Adobe management at Frankfurt Book Fair today. Adobe reported that next week they will release an update to Adobe Digital Editions 4 to address the known issues.
To clarify, this affects only Adobe Digital Editions 4 for Windows and Mac. Adobe reports that the issue does not affect third party apps in any way, including the OverDrive app. Adobe reports that the issue is not present with Adobe Digital Editions 3 or previous versions of Adobe Digital Editions.
For full text: http://blogs.overdrive.com/front-page-library-news/2014/10/09/overdrives-statement-about-adobe-digital-editions-privacy-concerns/
If you are concerned about your eBook privacy, we recommend that you uninstall Adobe Digital Editions version 4 from all of your devices immediately. You can still read eBook content online, or contact the library for print options. The Kindle app for accessing the Amazon format of eBooks is available to mobile and tablet users, and materials read directly through the Overdrive app are excluded from this breach of privacy.
We have expressed our dismay to our eBook provider, and have asked them to advocate for the principles of privacy that libraries are pledged to uphold. We are committed to challenging anyone who confuses “privacy policies” with “invasive policies.” Please contact the library if you have any additional questions or concerns about this issue.