Professor of Law
City University of New York
Sarah Lamdan discusses her book, Data Cartels (Stanford University Press, Nov. 2022), which suggests that several information vendors are behaving like informational cartels, exploiting consumers by blocking the free flow of critical information that they rely upon and siphoning their data to fuel burgeoning personal data analytics markets. Companies like RELX are pivoting from publishing and platforming content to becoming data analytics businesses. They are gathering up and paywalling as much information and data as they can, and using those resources as the foundations for other data analytics services. On top of their traditional legal, academic, and other information platforms, they build personal data-sifting products with vague terms like “business solutions,” “metrics services,” or “risk solutions,” which incorporate their content with personal data to derive new products to sell to law enforcement, academic decisionmakers, insurance companies, and other entities like employers, landlords, and healthcare decisions that make major choices about our lives. These companies prevent the free flow of information and distribute private information to predatory entities. Lamdan’s book argues that privatization and tech exceptionalism have prevented us from creating effective legal regulation. This in turn has allowed oversized information oligopolies to coalesce. In addition to specific legal and market-based solutions, Lamdan calls for treating information like a public good and creating digital infrastructure that supports our democratic ideals.