Library Free For All?

Andrew Albanese“Built by the People and Dedicated to the Advancement of Learning.” So reads an inscription on the Boston Public Library façade that summarizes the aspirations of the American public library. The 19th-century BPL is as nearly a palatial edifice as any in Boston, yet above the central entrance, three words also remind all comers that the treasures lying within are “Free to All.”

This week, the library of the 21st century finds technology may render those ambitions obsolete. As The Digital Reader reported, the latest version of Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) for library collections is able to collect and transmit unencrypted user data, and send that back to Adobe.

“It’s not at not at all clear why Adobe would collect this data, and what’s happening with it – maybe nothing,” Andrew Albanese, Publishers Weekly senior writer, says. “But regardless, as PW contributor Peter Brantley told me, the collection and transmission of such unencrypted data abrogates assumptions of reader privacy and creates a hackable dataset.”

There may be a silver lining to this foreboding revelation, Albanese tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally. “The Electronic Frontier Foundation said the discovery of Adobe’s data collection could be the scandal that finally turns publishers off using DRM, much like the music industry’s so-called ‘rootkit scandal’ in 2005. Back then, we learned that one major label’s CDs were depositing spyware onto consumers computers to observe their behavior. As EFF noted, that proved the beginning of the end for DRM in music.”

Every Friday, CCC’s “Beyond the Book” speaks with the editors and reporters of “Publishers Weekly” for an early look at the news that publishers, editors, authors, agents and librarians will be talking about when they return to work on Monday.

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