This isn’t new in academic publishing-though it will definitely call into question about the “quality” of articles published.
Elsevier admitted to writing “sponsored article compilation publications, on behalf of pharmaceutical clients, that were made to look like journals and lacked the proper disclosures“; offered Amazon vouchers to a select group of researchers to submit five star reviews on Amazon for certain products; manipulated citation reports; and is one of the leading lobbyists against open access and open science efforts. For this, Elsevier’s parent company, RELX, even employs two full-time lobbyists in the European Parliament, feeding “advice” into the highest levels of legislation and science organization. Here is a good summary of Elsevier’s problematic practices—suffice it to say that they’re very good at making profits.
Even after this grotesque admission, was there any action? Nope. Hence, this sounds like a moral grandstanding; especially on issues of “conflicts of interest”. The fact is that this is a “routine part of business” and everyone wants to be published. There are ways and means to get noticed though.
Here’s a snapshot of the data collected by Elsevier when you use Mendeley. Please use PaperPile or Zotero instead.
The fact that everyone does that is not a known problem, but I have no clue why the authors took this privacy grandstanding.
A small perspective:
Some of the issues mentioned here, such as lack of consent, seem problematic to us from the perspective of e.g. European data protection laws. Is it ok for companies to sign us up to newsletters without consent? Is it ok to collect and retain personal data indefinitely because Elsevier argues it is necessary?
I am not sure what’s really “wrong” here. It’s a company dedicated to making more value for shareholders and profits for itself. They chose academic publishing and hired lobbyists, like everyone else. They pursue rent extraction and utilise unpaid labour – like everyone else. So, what’s wrong? I am not personally condoning their practices, but privacy grandstanding sounds alarmist.