“The CFPB plans to issue new rules expanding the scope of federal privacy laws
The Biden administration is highlighting its efforts to combat abuses in the consumer-data industry, with regulators such as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau [CFPB] planning on issuing new rules and pledging aggressive oversight of so-called data brokers that compile and sell data on millions of Americans….
In February, a coalition of consumer advocate groups sent a letter to CFPB Chairman Rohit Chopra asking the agency to use existing federal laws to “rein in widespread harmful behavior” by the industry, citing companies like RELX (REN.AE) and Thomson Reuters (TRI.T) as “occupying the top of the personal-data food chain” and in need of stricter oversight….”
Data broker RELX is represented on Twitter by their Chief Communications Officer Paul Abrahams. Due to RELX subsidiary Elsevier being one of the largest publishers of academic journals, Dr. Abrahams frequently engages with academics on the social media platform. On their official pages, Elsevier tries to emphasize that they really, really can be trusted, honestly […]
This story is adapted from Data Cartels: The Companies That Control and Monopolize Our Information, by Sarah Lamdan.
When people worry about their data privacy, they usually focus on the Big Five tech companies: Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft. Legislators have brought Facebook’s CEO to the capitol to testify about the ways the company uses personal data. The FTC has sued Google for violating laws meant to protect children’s privacy. Each of the tech companies is followed by a bevy of reporters eager to investigate how it uses technology to surveil us. But when Congress got close to passing data privacy legislation, it wasn’t the Big Five that led the most urgent effort to prevent the law from passing, it was a company called RELX.
You might not be familiar with RELX, but it knows all about you. Reed Elsevier LexisNexis (RELX) is a Frankensteinian amalgam of publishers and data brokers, stitched together into a single information giant. There is one other company that compares to RELX—Thomson Reuters, which is also an amalgamation of hundreds of smaller publishers and data services. Together, the two companies have amassed thousands of academic publications and business profiles, millions of data dossiers containing our personal information, and the entire corpus of US law. These companies are a culmination of the kind of information market consolidation that’s happening across media industries, from music and newspapers to book publishing. However, RELX and Thomson Reuters are uniquely creepy as media companies that don’t just publish content but also sell our personal data.
The pandemic has been good for academic publisher Relx, helping it to weather a crisis that was harmful to its associated events business. Debates over vaccine efficacy have underlined the need for strong, peer-reviewed journals. Recent results recorded a rebound in underlying revenues of 7 per cent to £7.2bn in 2021.
“On April 2nd, news broke that RELX subsidiary LexisNexis signed a multi-million dollar contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). According to reporting on the ICE contract by the Intercept, LexisNexis’ databases “offer an oceanic computerized view of a person’s existence” and will provide the agency with “the data it needs to locate people with little if any oversight.”
While this contract may be new, it is just the latest development in an alarming trend that SPARC is following. Two major library vendors—RELX and Thomson Reuters—have been building sophisticated, global systems of surveillance that include online tracking technologies, massive aggregation of user data, and the sale of services based on this tracking, including to governments and law enforcement.
Dollars from library subscriptions, directly or indirectly, now support these systems of surveillance. This should be deeply concerning to the library community and to the millions of faculty and students who use their products each day and further underscores the urgency of privacy protections as library services—and research and education more generally—are now delivered primarily online. …
As alarming as these surveillance technologies are in their own right, they may already be crossing into academic products. Surveillance researcher Wolfie Christl has reported ThreatMetrix tracking code is now embedded in the ScienceDirect website, raising serious questions about what patron information is being collected and toward what purposes….
The Library Freedom Project’s Vendor Privacy Scorecard highlights the many privacy concerns across a wide selection of library vendors….”
“I am writing in the matter of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA). Despite a crystal-clear unanimous decision from United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on October 19, 2018, holding that people have the absolute right to speak and read Georgia’s official laws, I have been been unable to purchase a current copy of the OCGA….”