May 16, 2022

Report: “Academic Journal Claims it Fingerprints PDFs for ‘Ransomware,’ Not Surveillance”

From Motherboard:

One of the world’s largest publishers of academic papers said it adds a unique fingerprint to every PDF users download in an attempt to prevent ransomware, not to prevent piracy.

Elsevier defended the practice after an independent researcher discovered the existence of the unique fingerprints and shared their findings on Twitter last week.

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It’s unclear exactly how fingerprinting every PDF downloaded could actually prevent ransomware. Jonny Saunders, a neuroscience PhD candidate at University of Oregon, who discovered the practice, said he believes Elsevier is trying to surveil its users and prevent people from sharing research without paying the company.

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The company’s spokesperson did not respond to Saunders’ allegations.

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About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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