Monday, December 31, 2007

Unnecessary Outcry over Adobe CS3 and Omniture Tracking

On Dec 26th a blog post on Uneasysilence.comshowed that when a user launches CS3 suite adobe calls a server on Omniture. According to the article
When you launch a CS3 application the application pings out to what looks like an IP address - and internal IP address:

This created a lot of paranoia among Adobe users and led to a lot of blog posts and comments on these blog posts (Also see Everybody started talking about how evil adobe is and so on. It appears that we, Web Analytics community and online marketers, have a huge task of educating users about Web analytics tracking and quelling this kind of paranoia.

Finally one product manager from Adobe stepped up to clear all the confusion.

Adobe Product manager wrote a reply on Adbobe Blog. Here is what he wrote:
According to Doug Miller from the team, "Omniture is Adobe's web analytic vendor for There are only 3 places we track things via Omniture anywhere in or around our products.":
  • The welcome screens (these things) in some Adobe apps include a Flash SWF file that loads current news, special offers, etc. These requests hit servers and are logged, like regular browser-based traffic, by Omniture.

  • Adobe Bridge embeds both the Opera browser and the Flash Player, both of which can be used to load Adobe-hosted content. These requests are also logged.

  • Adobe apps can call various online resources (online help, user forums, etc.), and those requests are logged. [Update: To clarify, those contacts are made only if the user requests them--e.g. by choosing Help->Adobe Exchange.]

This, as far as I've been able to discover, is the extent of the nefarious "spying." If I learn anything else when more people get back on email, I'll update this post.

Let me start by saying that the kind of tracking Adobe appears to be doing is pretty harmless to you end users. Now let me ask a question to all these people, who became so paranoid about Adobe and Omniture Tracking. “Do you know that you are being tracked at a lot of places?” I am sure you have done one or more of the following

Connected to the internet – Do you know that ISP track of what you do online? You should read my blog post titled “ISP Based Behavioral Targeting.
Visited any site on the internet? - A lot of sites (and in fact they all should) track user behavior to create a better experience for users and to help them in their business goals.
Installed a toolbar – Do you know that their activity is being tracked by toolbars you install?
Used any social networking site where they volunteered all sorts of information.
Used a credit card. – Yes they have whole history of what you bought, when and where.
Bought a product on any major retail chain, used a credit card or a club card. – They keep track of what you buy, when and where too.

Since you are tracked everywhere, why is there a paranoia about being tracked by Adobe? Actually the kind of tracking Adobe is doing is not even close to the information you are giving away via other activities (some of them mentioned above). The kind of tracking adobe is doing is to understand the usage of their sites and provide a better experience for the users. The way I understand, Adobe is looking at user behavior at an aggregate level and not at an individual level, most of the companies doing web analytics do not look at individual user behavior. Most of the web analytics tools, like Omniture, use an anonymous cookie to track user behavior. This anonymous tracking usually looks at aggregated data for entire user base (or few segments) instead of an individual and hence do not invade your privacy.
So I request you to stop this paranoia about tracking by web analytics tools. They are helping you to have a better experience on the web.

Note: I am not associated with Adobe in any way. I have never worked for them in any capacity and do not know anybody personally at Adobe.



  1. jeff leong10:47 AM

    i agree in that this method to track is harmless and is in no threat to the end user. but id also like to add that this kind of tracking is happening everywhere and as 2.0 elements and ria begin to get deployed at a massive level, you'll see more use of api's, iframes, eventlogging and other creative customizations of client-side based analytics solutions to provide this needed information.

    a good question however is would this fall into privacy policy and should this be treated as you would pages that are tagged and depend on cookies for tracking.

  2. Hi Anil,

    great bit of info there.
    As Jeff said, with web X.0, more integrated server calls will be made, including web analytics server requests.

    Beyond the privacy debate, I feel Adobe can use this technique as a good way to track product licenses and check for their piracy rates.

    Imagine passing the CS3 serial number via a Custom Insight variable :)

    Just my 2 cents from across the pond ;)


    Julien Coquet


I would like to hear your comments and questions.