By Caroline Ball – Academic Librarian, University of Derby, #ebookSOS campaigner
Twitter: @heroicendeavour, Mastodon: @email@example.com
and Anthony Sinnott, Access and Procurement Development Manager, University of York; Twitter: @librarianth
What do 850 football players and their performance data have in common with academic libraries and online resources? More than you’d think! The connecting factor is data, how it is collected, used and for what purposes.
‘Project Red Card’ is demanding compensation for the use of footballers’ performance data by betting companies, video game manufacturers, scouts and others, arguing that players should have more control over how their personal data is collected and particularly how it is monetized and commercialised.
Similarly, libraries’ online resources, whether a single ebook or vast databases, are producing enormous amounts of data, utilised by librarians to assist us in our vital functions: assessing usage and value, determining demand and relevance.
But are we the only ones using this data generated by our users? What other uses is this data being put to? We know for certain that vendors have access to more data than they provide to us via COUNTER statistics etc, but we have no way of knowing how much, what types, or what is done with it.
Witness the recent controversy generated by Wiley’s removal of 1,379 e-books from Academic Complete. Publishers like Wiley determine high use by accessing statistics generated by our end-users via the various e-book platforms through which they access the content. This in itself is indicative of our end-user/library data being provided to third parties without our knowledge or consent, particularly concerning given our licences are with vendors and not publishers. We are also not privy to what data-sharing agreements exist between vendors and publishers. Should we allow library usage data to be weaponized against us in this fashion? What recourse do we have to push back against this practice of ‘data extractivism’, to either withhold this data from publishers and vendors or prohibit them from using it for their own commercial gain?