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Conventionally, data embedding techniques aim at maintaining high-output image quality so that the difference between the original and the embedded images is imperceptible to the naked eye. Recently, as a new trend, some researchers exploited reversible data embedding techniques to deliberately degrade image quality to a desirable level of distortion. In this paper, a unified data embedding-scrambling technique called UES is proposed to achieve two objectives simultaneously, namely, high payload and adaptive scalable quality degradation. First, a pixel intensity value prediction method called checkerboard-based prediction is proposed to accurately predict 75% of the pixels in the image based on the information obtained from 25% of the image. Then, the locations of the predicted pixels are vacated to embed information while degrading the image quality. Given a desirable quality (quantified in SSIM) for the output image, UES guides the embedding-scrambling algorithm to handle the exact number of pixels, i.e., the perceptual quality of the embedded-scrambled image can be controlled. In addition, the prediction errors are stored at a predetermined precision using the structure side information to perfectly reconstruct or approximate the original image. In particular, given a desirable SSIM value, the precision of the stored prediction errors can be adjusted to control the perceptual quality of the reconstructed image. Experimental results confirmed that UES is able to perfectly reconstruct or approximate the original image with SSIM value after completely degrading its perceptual quality while embedding at 7.001 bpp on average.