It’s been a minute since we posted anything about our friends the Big Deal academic publishing vendors. In part, it’s probably because it’s hard to stay mad at this busted business model now that we’ve left it behind. Unfortunately, just when we thought we were out, it seems they are pulling us back in.

Sarah Lamdan of CUNY Law School writes about big data and policing, and lately she’s been writing a lot about the ways the police use big data brokers like our friends Thomson Reuters and RELX (the company that owns academic publisher Elsevier). As Lamdan writes:

Thomson Reuters and RELX are the US police force’s major law enforcement data brokers. Data brokers make billions of dollars selling our information to marketing firms, political consultants, and other operations that benefit from knowing who we are on a granular level. Thomson Reuters and RELX give police huge data collections about all of us containing billions of datapoints.

Why is this a problem? Well…

Data-fueled policing shifts bad policing practices online digitizing discriminatory policing practices and perpetuating systemic racism….The shift to data-based policing puts our civil liberties and human rights at risk. Internationally, the United Nations Human Rights Council has raised concerns about governments using private surveillance industry tools. In the US, civil rights groups worry that data broker-fueled policing creates “racist feedback loops” by perpetuating inherent biases. Bad, biased data like racist gang databases and data based on inherently racist assumptions about particular zip codes, activities, and associations form biased mosaics of our habits, relationships, and daily lives.

And those of us who use research products from these vendors are complicit:

Despite human rights and civil liberties concerns, Thomson Reuters and RELX continue to build surveillance products on the backs of its other businesses, including their news services, legal research products, and financial data products. When lawyers, finance professionals, and journalists pay their Thomson Reuters and RELX subscription fees or supply the company with content, they may be funding police surveillance product research and development.

Read the full essay at Defund the Police, and Defund Big Data Policing, Too.