Adobe AIR: Deleting Locally Stored Encrypted Data

The main advantage to Windows for me, is that I am familiar with maintenance. I go straight into registry files, poke, shift, and delete stuff – confident my actions will not interfere with my PC’s innards. I know Windows. OS X is a whoooole different story. Everything is so simple, but that’s what scares me. The simplicity.

Call me paranoid, but because of my past experiences with Windows, 3rd party native apps freak me out, since I’m don’t know what’s going into where… and the biggest problem? I am an OS X moron.

So looking into 3rd party publishing tools for Twitter was confusing. All of the apps I use (personal and professionally) are web based. I do not have a need for Silverlight or Adobe Air, so I had to learn about those app before deciding on a Twitter app, since most Twitter apps require AIR or Silverlight. See? Confusing.

Long story short, I decided on Twhirl, since it came so highly recommended, installed AIR and Twhirl, then uninstalled immediately after running them for 30minutes. I am one of those that keeps separate windows to a minimum and accustomed to only a few windows: my browsers (Firefox, Safari, nightly build), documents, and Adium. Plus it slowed down my computer and it was just too busy. (for me).

So when it came to uninstalling Twhirl and AIR, I wondered if there were any files both apps plugged or hid locally. Especially since the data is encrypted and uses KeyChain to store data from the application to user. Digging through my hard drive did nothing for me, not to mention all the questions: Dragging and dropping apps don’t really make all the files… disappear. Do they? Can it truly be that simple? It seems too good to be true; and the questions go on and on. (Hmmm, note to self: learn OS X.)

So I did the next best thing. Googled.

Well lo and behold, turns out I was correct. Adobe Air doesn’t automatically delete files.

From their site:

deleting Adobe Air encrypted files
Click for larger image

“The encrypted local store may perform more slowly if the stored data exceeds 10MB.

When you uninstall an AIR application, the uninstaller does not delete data stored in the encrypted local store.

Encrypted local store data is put in a subdirectory of the user’s application data directory; the subdirectory path is Adobe/AIR/ELS/ followed by the application ID.” via Adobe’s site

And there you have it, folks.

Do any of you use Adobe Air? Am I missing out on good apps? Do you use Twhirl or another client?

11 thoughts on “Adobe AIR: Deleting Locally Stored Encrypted Data

  1. Hi Mona

    I was wondering and it took a little poking around to confirm you were indeed the one whom I have seen in FF. You are the first person I have known of that I neither met on my blog or offline first. Cool eh?

    Anyway, I liked this article because I really didn’t know that about uninstalling Air apps. I think it would be great if you wrote a follow up and let us know how you clear that data out.

    See you on FF ;)

    PS. Email me if you do write the follow up as I would come to read it for sure!

  2. Hey Roger! Thanks for stopping by and I’m glad you like the write up :)
    I actually cleared the data already by following the instructions on Adobe’s site a few days ago. It was really easy… what took longer was actually finding out how to do it LOL!!

    …and I’ll send this via email too.
    Nice to see you both of FF and here.

    Mona : )

  3. For OS X, it’s: /Users/Username/Library/Application Support/Adobe/AIR/ – although I can’t confirm the specific path for either Windows XP or Windows Vista, though it’s likely to be somewhere either in “C:\Documents and Settings\Username\” or “C:\Users\Username\” depending on which version of Windows.

  4. Very useful article, thank you. Now I face exactly the same problem as you, but other perspective, the developer’s one. I code and debug an AIR application for client. This app downloads MP3 files from the online store, and requires user authorization, and stores the login and password.

    Now QA filed a bug asking to clear the user credentials at the application’s uninstall. I don’t know how to do it. Possible approach I see at the moment is to give user a button like “Clear my private data”. But this is work-around indeed.

    I want to dig deeper in the AIR uninstall process to figure out how to implement right clean-up.

    BTW, when AIR Runtime is uninstalled, these encrypted data storage is being cleaned.

  5. Rostislav Siryk:
    Thank you kindly for taking the time to comment! I love hearing about various apps in the pipeline and the development process!

    Given the app you’re currently working on is a store, it’s scary when I know so little about AIR’s uninstall process and right with you about learning more. I am not a developer (by any means) but as a consumer, believe it’s beneficial to truly comprehend where the data is stored, why it’s stored there, and how the allocated and stored privacy data are cleaned, to prevent any issues in the future.

    I wish I had more insightful feedback to give, but I know nothing (well close to nothing) so any information you leave is extremely fascinating!! Please keep me updated.

  6. pixelbits, thank you for the response.

    I’ve made some investigation and found out that at the moment, during uninstall process, AIR Application doesn’t handle any data outside its Program folder. This is the data like local files, databases and encrypted store, created or used by the application. Some files can be stored in your User directory like this: /Users/[USER_NAME]/Library/Preferences/[APPLICATION_ID].[KEY]/Local Store/

    Oliver Goldman from Adobe clearly explains the issues related to such data in his blog:

    http://blogs.adobe.com/simplicity/2008/07/why_uninstallers_dont_clean_up_user_files.html

    http://blogs.adobe.com/simplicity/2008/07/cleaning_up_sensitive_user_data.html

    In short, it is not easy task to handle such data in multi-user environment. In this situation, AIR has more troubles than any other application because AIR is cross-platform, so it must handle such issues in the way, which will work for everyone, not only for Windows or Mac users.

    I believe the solution can be found, it is just not easy, but is possible. At least, if AIR application could listen to the event of its uninstall (feature, which Ryan Stewart from Adobe first suggested to have), it could be a way to go, because developer will be able to handle the data just before uninstall.

    The more serious applications will be developed on top of the AIR platform, the more questions like your post subject will arise, so need to address these questions will grow. And I believe they will be addressed by Adobe.

    Now it’s up to app developer to work around the sensitive user data removal. In our case, we decided to clean it up at each application install and now investigating the option of cleanup forced by user’s choice.

    Adobe AIR is still young and fast-growing, but soon it will start to become mature, and I hope for sound solution from Adobe.

  7. Hey, this is an old article, but was interested in a couple of things:
    1. Has AIR now provided a way to handle deleting encrypted data on uninstall
    2. If not, how did Rostislav Siryk manage to delete the data on reinstall?

    Cheers
    Karl

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