KEYNOTE: Surveillance capitalism in our libraries

KEYNOTE: Surveillance capitalism in our libraries Sarah Lamdan, CUNY School of Law


In the transition from industrial to informational capitalism, much of our lived experience has gone from physical to digital, including library services. As publishers, library vendors, and other informational service providers have become internet-based companies, their business models have transitioned from analog services to data-based services. In short, our traditional library service providers are becoming data analytics companies, dabbling in, or diving into personal data brokering. From RELX to ProQuest, major library vendors are finding new ways to extract and monetize people's personal data. Researchers are finding surveillance software like ThreatMetrix in their research databases, and data analytics companies like Clarivate are trying to acquire ProQuest, a major library service platform provider to exploit library patrons' data to create more academic metrics to sell grant funders and research institutions. All of these corporate decisions are part of a trend of our vendors collecting library patrons' personal data. The increasing surveillance capitalism in our library spaces makes open access more important than ever.

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