Hyper-personalisation: should government communication always be made-to-measure?
Almost all websites – from search engines to social networks to news outlets – use filters to personalise content: advances in data collection, analytics, digital electronics and digital economics have helped website owners offer better real-time and more prolonged online experiences. But is that necessarily a good thing?
At first glance, filtering offers real benefits for government communicators. We have argued in The Leaders' Report that personalisation can help governments deliver more relevant messages to citizens and, by limiting information overload, help them find the intelligence they need more easily.
But some respondents to The Leaders' Report are concerned that if governments over-use personalised content, they may:
- Damage the “bonds of society” by prioritising individual needs and opinions over those of the wider community
- Isolate citizens, by limiting the amount of information that challenges their point of view
- Exclude other unrelated news or information that citizens may find useful.
Some degree of algorithmic personalisation is of course essential: there is simply too much information online for citizens to cope with. But in addition to providing access to information and services, government communicators also have a responsibility to educate and inform citizens about unpopular issues and the needs, views and requirements of the wider population that algorithms may filter out.
Where that delicate balance – between continued personalisation and community-focused content – lies, isn't yet clear. Government communicators will need to find it, or deal with the consequences.
We have called these issues ‘outliers' and we intend to initiate wider discussion and debate on them over the coming months.