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PDF Tracking: Adobe updates Acrobat & PDF Reader

Adobe updates Acrobat Reader 7.0.5 so that clients can decide whether they want the fact that they have read the document to be tracked or not. Users are shown a pop-up warning when a PDF document that is tagged for tracking attempts to make a connection to a Web service.

A secret Sypware feature in Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader keeps track of how many times a PDF document has been accessed by the software. It can also log the number of times it was viewed from the IP address of the computer on which it was opened.

The tracking was being done using JavaScript, support for which had been added as a default setting to Adobe Reader 7 for Linux and since version 6 in versions for other platforms. The tracking failed when the PDF was viewed by other readers such as Xpdf and Kpdf, and version 5 of Abode Reader.

Clients were using the PDF Tracking service by Remote Approach to know whether their customers actually read or forward a client's PDFs after downloading them from the client's Web site, while others engaged in peer-to-peer marketing want measurable data on whether their available PDF is being effective, given that traditional Web analysis can't measure such data.

Earlier, Adobe Officials said they they are unaware of this but today, Adobe quitely updated Adobe Reader 7.0.5 and Adobe Acrobat 7.0.5 so that a dialogue box would pop up when a document tagged with Remote Approach's software was opened.

Marck Szulc of Adobe said although JavaScript was enabled by default in version 7.05 of the Reader, it had limited implications as it was operating within a sandbox, confining its use to the opened document. He said Adobe had introduced digital signatures in its software to provide security, confidentiality and also to prove the authenticity of a document.

Remote Approach's online service lets businesses tag PDF files for distribution. When the PDF is read, it interacts with a network service to record the event and create reports on the movement of the document.

Adobe Reader is the de facto standard used to displays and print PDF files, while Adobe Acrobat is a document exchange software that allows documents to be displayed and printed the same on every computer.