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Adobe updates ToS, allowing itself access to user content

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Adobe has been scrutinised for new Terms of Service (ToS) language — users must agree to continue using Adobe apps, stating that the company can “access, view, or listen to your Content through both automated and manual methods.”

The company further states that it may have access to users’ content to respond to feedback, detect fraud and security issues, or enforce the terms mentioned in Section 4.1. Adobe will use machine learning techniques to improve its services and software by accessing user content.

This update has ignited a wave of criticism from users and Adobe Stock contributors, particularly on social media platforms like X. People view this as an invasion of privacy. Many interpret it as Adobe admitting to surveilling user content and potentially using it to train AI models, including confidential materials under non-disclosure agreements.

“We may access, view, or listen to your Content (defined in section 4.1 (Content) below) through both automated and manual methods, but only in limited ways, and only as permitted by law. For example, to provide the Services and Software, we may need to access, view, or listen to your Content to (A) respond to Feedback or support requests; (B) detect, prevent, or otherwise address fraud, security, legal, or technical issues; and (C) enforce the Terms, as further outlined in Section 4.1 below,” reads Section 2.2 of Adobe’s Terms of Service.

Under Section 4.1, Adobe can remove content for violating its Terms of Service.

“We reserve the right (but do not have the obligation) to remove Content or restrict access to Content, Services, and Software if any of your Content is found to violate the Terms. We do not review all Content uploaded to the Services and Software, but we may use available technologies, vendors, or processes, including manual review, to screen for certain types of illegal content (for example, child sexual abuse material) or other abusive content or behaviour (for example, patterns of activity that indicate spam or phishing, or keywords that indicate adult content has been posted outside of the adult wall),” says Section 4.1 of the new TOS.

The two sections add confusion and ambiguity, and people are rightly worried. What if the company violates the principles and accesses content without a user’s knowledge? We have seen big companies fooling people time and again. For instance, Google was found to track people’s online activities in incognito mode while claiming that all trackers are off during this mode.

Furthermore, under Section 4.2, the company states that by using Adobe’s software, creators grant the company a “non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free sublicensable license” to use, sub-license or modify the content.

This means that Adobe can access users’ content and modify or sublicense it. The Section is unclear on exactly under which circumstances Adobe will access users’ content. Adobe should add more information to remove confusion and ambiguity.

“This policy has been in place for many years. As part of our commitment to being transparent with our customers, we added clarifying examples earlier this year to our Terms of Use regarding when Adobe may access user content,” the company told VentureBeat.

Despite the company’s efforts to clarify, users remain sceptical. The vague language of the ToS, combined with the growing presence of generative AI content, has prompted many to contemplate ending their Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions.

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Kumar Hemant

Kumar Hemant

Deputy Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant writes at the intersection of tech and culture and has a keen interest in science, social issues and international relations. You can contact him here: