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Adobe responds to uproar over new Terms of Service language Adobe responds to uproar over new Terms of Service language
VB Transform 2024 returns this July! Over 400 enterprise leaders will gather in San Francisco from July 9-11 to dive into the advancement of... Adobe responds to uproar over new Terms of Service language

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Adobe has been one of the leading legacy enterprise software companies to embrace generative AI and make it accessible to users through the likes of its proprietary (and enterprise-safe) Firefly AI image generation model, Generative Fill and other gen AI features in Photoshop, and, just today, an AI Assistant for its customer experience software — plus much more.

But the company has also taken backlash among some of its users and Adobe Stock contributors for this pro-gen AI stance. And lately, as gen AI tech overall faces an increasing number of critics and doubters, Adobe has found itself in hot water over new “Terms of Service” (ToS) language that it is requiring users to agree to before continuing to use its apps.

(The ToS doesn’t actually mention AI, apart from a reference to “machine learning,” which can be used to train gen AI models, but also many other programs, and a clause stating that AI models cannot be trained on Adobe software.)

The language of the Adobe ToS, sent out this week to many customers of Adobe’s Creative Cloud Suite (which counts more than 20 million users globally), states:


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Updated Terms of Use

We’ve made some changes to the Adobe General Terms of Use regarding the use of Software and Services, including:

• Clarified that we may access your content through both automated and manual methods, such as for content review (Sections 2.2 and 4.1)

• Modified our right to delete content for inactive accounts (Section 5.3)

• Updated the period to resolve disputes informally from 60 to 30 days (Section 14.1)

By closing this window, you’ll be unable to continue using Adobe apps and services. By clicking “Accept and Continue,” you agree that you have read and accepted the Terms of Use.

The screenshot of the message I received when accessing Adobe Firefly on the web is also embedded below:

Meanwhile, clicking on the full “Terms of Use” link included in the notification brings the user here, where you can read in greater detail sections 2.2, 4.1, 5.3, and 14.1.

It’s Section 2.2 in the updated Adobe ToS that has really inflamed a handful of users on social media, namely X. This section states:

2.2 Our Access to Your Content. 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, in order 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 set forth in Section 4.1 below. Our automated systems may analyze your Content and Creative Cloud Customer Fonts (defined in section 3.10 (Creative Cloud Customer Fonts) below) using techniques such as machine learning in order to improve our Services and Software and the user experience. Information on how Adobe uses machine learning can be found here: http://www.adobe.com/go/machine_learning

In particular, users have objected to Adobe’s claims that it “may access, view, or listen to your Content through both automated and manual methods…using techniques such as machine learning in order to improve our Services and Software and the user experience,” which many took to be a tacit admission both of surveilling them and of training AI on their content, even confidential content for clients protected under non-disclosure agreements or confidentiality clauses/contracts between said Adobe users and clients.

Even Hollywood directors such as Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code, Warcraft — also the son of late musical icon David Bowie) posted statements on X knocking the company for the updated ToS agreement language (though Jones has since deleted his post). I’m reproducing it below for the benefit of the public record.

One enterprising user also posted a screenshot annotated to show the changes in the language from the most immediate prior Adobe ToS from 2023, to this new one.

However, as Section 4.1 clarifies:

“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 behavior (for example, patterns of activity that indicate spam or phishing, or keywords that indicate adult content has been posted outside of the adult wall).”

Ultimately, Adobe appears to be trying to give itself permission to analyze and moderate content uploaded to user’s Creative Cloud Accounts (which it manages) for possible illegal activity (such as child abuse, physical abuse and nonconsensual pornography) or violations of its ToS.

A spokesperson for Adobe provided the following statement in response to VentureBeat’s questions about the new ToS and vocal backlash:

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.  Adobe accesses user content for a number of reasons, including the ability to deliver some of our most innovative cloud-based features, such as Photoshop Neural Filters and Remove Background in Adobe Express, as well as to take action against prohibited content. Adobe does not access, view or listen to content that is stored locally on any user’s device. 

In addition, sources close to Adobe noted that the company did not and could technically not analyze Adobe file formats saved locally to a user’s drive or machine, and that the analysis of content uploaded to Creative Cloud or simply being worked on in a networked Adobe app took place primarily to offer some of the new Gen AI features such as automated generative backgrounds and removal tools.

Furthermore, while Adobe hasn’t committed not to training on user content, in the past, it already trained Firefly and various AI features on content uploaded by contributors to Adobe Stock, its stock image library, and has stated through various channels this is lawful and ethical according to its own ToS for that service.

Still, the ambiguity around the ToS and rise of gen AI content around the web has many voicing their desire and intention to cancel their Adobe Creative Cloud or software app subscriptions. We’ll have to wait and see if this latest backlash — one among many to various ToS updates by many services across the web over the years — will have any material impact on the company’s business.



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