As the gatekeepers for the databases and platforms that we use for research, librarians have an obligation to honor privacy and civil liberties in their libraries, and to stand up to research product companies helping ICE to build supersystems for “extremely vetting” citizens and noncitizens alike. — Sarah Lamdan and Yasmin Sokkar Harker, LexisNexis’s Role in ICE Surveillance and Librarian Ethics, Law Librarian Blog, Dec. 11, 2017
Last week, Sarah Lamdan and Yasmin Sokkar Harker published “LexisNexis’s Role in ICE Surveillance and Librarian Ethics” on the RIPS blog. (Later republished on LLB.) The RIPS blog contains the disclaimer that “All opinions expressed in the posts herein are those of the individual author and do not represent the opinions of RIPS-SIS or AALL.” The disclaimer wasn’t good enough to stop our association from taking down the post in its entirety on the advice of AALL’s general counsel and without consulting with the post authors until after the takedown.
Two answers have been offered to the above question. First, our association’s rationale may be that AALL fears an antitrust lawsuit from one of our very expensive legal information providers mentioned in the post. Alternatively, perhaps, AALL fears alienating an organizational member that contributes funding to our association. Since our association’s general counsel was involved, it appears likely that AALL was afraid of possible litigation on antitrust grounds for singling out LexisNexis in the blog post. If so, we have a problem here, one that cannot be addressed by our association without some risk exposure. How much? Would LexisNexis sue AALL over this? I seriously doubt it but…
According to a comment posted by Dennis Kim-Prieto to an Immigration Prof Blog post about the Lamdan and Harker piece:
The upshot of [LexisNexis’s role in ICE surveillance] is that LexisNexis may no longer be a secure research resource for immigration practice and appeals. By searing [sic] LexisNexis, attorneys are giving them access to their search terms, which is what ICE really needs to inform the algorithms that will run the proposed database. Every immigration attorney and clinic should, in my professional opinion, find another source to use instead of LexisNexis. You may be inadvertently putting your clientele at risk by using LexisNexis!
If that is the case, then we have a situation where our ethical concerns for searcher privacy in database usage cannot find expression in concerted activity under the AALL umbrella because it might lead to an anti-competitive boycott of LexisNexis. As a professional association we are sinking in the quicksand of antitrust rules again. — Joe