yourData is openDemocracy’s project to bring more transparency to data use on the web.
Personalisation is where websites shows you specific content dependent on data they have about you. Like showing you information about floral dresses because they think you’re a woman, or more articles about Bernie Sanders because you’re viewing from the US.
This technique is increasingly common across the web. It is used to make content more relevant to you, to get you to buy more, or to be more generally persuasive.
It usually happens invisibly – you don’t know why you’re seeing some content, and not other content.
We think web users should know this so we’re starting to do personalisation transparently with yourData. If we do it well, we hope people will demand the same from other sites too.
So how does it work?
Let’s take the example of your location data. When you visit a website, the system can see your IP address, which is like your computer’s address and is associated with your geographical location.
Our system uses this information when creating the page. If you are coming from the UK, our system will detect it and show you the following UK oriented content.
Nothing to see here.
From any other country you should see this content instead, so long as you are not hiding your IP address e.g. with a VPN.
GDPR expands protections for personal information of EU citizens wherever that data may be. The law extends its reach beyond the boundaries of the EU to any company "processing" the data of EU citizens.
This is a simple example of how personal data is used for personalisation.
The yourData feature shows readers the data used to decide what content to serve you. This information is crucial to really understand what you are seeing online.
We don't actually use a great deal of personalisation on our site at the moment, so we are just testing this on certain articles. Eventually, we want to develop this into a feature that offers web users greater insight and control over their data.
We want to drive this level of data transparency to sites and users across the internet.