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‘No’ to publishers gathering personal data

Jane CharltonBy Jane Charlton
Category - Blog

Monday 4th May 2020

Sally Hoadley, Content Supplier Coordinator at the University of Surrey, summarises her team’s experience of publishers gathering personal data and the issues it causes.

In the run up to our 2020 Access Lab conference, we spoke to Sally Hoadley from the University of Surrey on the topic of privacy. Sally outlined some of the key points in her team’s presentation Saying ‘no’ to publishers personal data gathering – our experiences”.

Technical advancements allow us to access detailed information that for many years was previously impossible to do. With this comes many issues around privacy and data protection, leading to many changes in the ways data is stored. Law makers and regulators are playing catch up. And through GDPR, they taking back control of information shared and stored online. 

Digital innovation is driving change

The digital era has led to many changes in how industries operate. From the training of employees to day to day logisticsMore traditional sectors, for instance law, are moving physical resources such as textbooks and printed reports online. With that comes a myriad of issues. 

Academic staff are now faced with a conflict between GDPR requirements and increasing pressure from providers to release users information. 

University libraries are buying less traditional resources, such as textbooks and theoretical literature. And teams like Sallys now purchase various multimedia assets such as simulators for business students. 

Industry vs academia 

Tools used in many modern working environments are increasingly online based. It’s vitally important that students studying these disciplines need to understand how to use them from the get-go. 

Industry specific digital content providers are now working with academic libraries to provide students with these resources and the tools they need to function in that sector. 

This creates three main issues.

Issue 1 

Although these providers exist in digital world, the technology is very young compared with university libraries and traditional academia. This causes conflict between the ways these providers run versus how academia has existed for so long.

Issue 2

We live in a world where the more user information you have, the better you can target library users and cater your offering and services accordingly. So, Providers now ask more of universities when it comes to the distribution of their products and services.

Universities exist as seats of learning. And their libraries work to provide users with the information they need in the most efficient wayConversely, providers exist as businesses. Naturally, they ask for as much information as they can from people using their services to improve and grow.

This goes against what content supplier coordinators such as Sally stand for. Sally’s team believe in providing students with access to the information they need in the most efficient way possibleThis dichotomy causes conflict between the university and their providers.

Issue 3

The final issue surrounds GDPR which prevents the sharing of personal information without the individual’s consent. This makes it extremely difficult to store individuals’ data. Libraries will likely have to check with separate compliance departments and wait for feedback wherever there is a requirement to store student data. A process made even longer by the pressure from providers to get more information from students when using their services. 

The solution 

Academic libraries don’t want publishers to ask its users to submit lots of personal information every time they go to access it. Sally and her team prefer the use of single sign-on tools such as the ones we provide with one central login point for all these services. This reduces the need for sharing lot of personal data and makes the whole process of accessing information more efficient. 

Creating ways that work within the parameters of data protection and information sharing is a common goal for all. After all, we need to put library user needs first. OpenAthens helps find solutions that work for both parties, working closely with libraries and publishing customers.  

We also train and support library staff to help them understand the new ways information is being accessed. It’s vitally important library staff know how this will affect them in this new working environment.

Want to find out more about the issues Sally raised?  

Visit our Access Lab 2020 resource hub to access her teams recorded session ‘Saying ‘no’ to publishers personal data gathering – our experiences’ 

You’ll find our panel debate ‘Privacy vs Personalisation’  and other privacy-related sessions there too. 


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