We librarians take patron privacy seriously. We do not divulge borrowing history to anyone—including spouses or parents. Sometimes, people think we can go back and see everything that they’ve ever taken out. We can’t and don’t want to.
Unfortunately, we don’t exercise the same control over our ebook collection, which passes through intermediaries such as Amazon, Overdrive and Adobe. Several weeks ago, libraries became aware of a data “breach” by Adobe Digital Editions—a provider of our ebook software. Borrowing information was being sent to Adobe from individual computers unencrypted and easily hacked.
The breach (or potential breach) applies to a fairly narrow slice of ebook users—those using Adobe Digital Editions 4.0 on a computer. Overdrive apps for mobile devices are apparently not allowing this breach of privacy.
Since the issue became public, and the ensuing protest from librarians around the country, Adobe has updated Digital Editions to encrypt the data sent from your computer.
For the American Library Association’s statement on Adobe’s fix, click here.
To read about the larger issue of libraries and third-party digital vendors, see this article in Slate: