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There is a flood of commentary covering the sale of Mendeley to Elsevieer. However, only a few posts have bemoaned the sale of Mendeley's usage data to Elsevier. So perhaps now is a good time to speculate a little, what Elsevier might be up to with this new asset. In particular, a speculation with their past track record in mind.

Obviously, given that Mendeley can be used to share copyrighted content, Elsevier could go and sue Mendeley users for breach of copyright. Elsevier and other corporate publishers have a long track record of suing their customers, so this would not be unexpected at all, on the contrary - we should be positively surprised if Elsevier would not use this data to enforce their copyrights, one way or another.

Another commonly observed behavior would be to use the data to develop a very useful tool and initially offering it for free. So far, so good, this would actually be a positive and welcomed consequence. However, more likely is probably the scenario where Elsevier will use the market power it has to hike the prices as they and other publishers have done with their paywalled content. So instead of overcharging just libraries for subscriptions, they will then overcharge both libraries and researchers for services no competitor can offer because Elsevier is the only player with access to the crucial data.

Going by their previous publication of advertisements hidden in fake journals, they might also use the data to specifically target users with very cleverly crafted advertisements that superficially look like science. Maybe Elsevier will use the data to go into the business of spamferences?

Once they have such detailed knowledge over which user is reading what and in which way, there is no limit to the number of possibilities for parasitizing individuals the same way the company has so far parasitized libraries and other institutional customers. What do you think? What else could they use the data for?
Posted on Thursday 11 April 2013 - 12:59:48 comment: 4

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