You and your learners will identify the privacy choices that face you every day. Then you will learn how third parties can track you online and how you can limit online tracking in your browser learning skills like evaluate, navigate, protect, search, and synthesize.
- Conduct a personal privacy audit to identify key choices facing you everyday.
- Track who is tracking you online.
- Limit tracking in your browser.
- Beginner web users
- Data Trail Timeline chart or template
- Sticky notes
- Pens & pencils
- Internet-connected computers
Try the activities below and visit the links to test each online privacy tool.
In this step you will introduce the ideas of Internet health and privacy and security to your learners.
Share something like the following:
A healthy Internet is a place where we all know and understand the privacy choices we face and can make our own decisions about who gets to follow us there.
Privacy doesn’t mean you have something to hide. It means you have the ability to choose who knows where you go and what you do. We should support tools and fight for policies that respect people’s identity and data across the Internet.
However, practicing strong online privacy and security habits can be tricky. Many online products and services we use get “better” or faster the more information we give them about ourselves. If we’re not careful, though, we can give up too much information in return for convenience. Then we run the risk of walling ourselves in online. Companies will give us only the things they think we want to see making it more difficult to reach new information and experiences.
Giving away too much personal information also makes it easy for people to find and follow us offline, as well.
In this lesson, we’ll look at ways to find out who is tracking us online and go over some steps we can take to strengthen our privacy and security habits online and off. By learning about the challenges facing healthy privacy and security habits on the Internet, we can better protect ourselves and others from those who want to track us for their own purposes.
Offline Activity5 minutes
In this step you will use this script to take your learners through a privacy audit - or “threat assessment” - activity.
Begin with something like tbhis:
Think of all the decisions you make in a typical day. How many of them are connected to a device like a phone, computer, or credit card reader? How many times a day can someone “see” where you are based on the information you share about yourself online through check-ins, purchases, and other forms of social media?
If you’re like most of us, you’re giving away more information than you know. Others can use this information to manipulate the news and advertising you see online, to try and influence your opinions, and even to follow where you go in the real world.
Next, ask learners to brainstorm a list of all the ways they might appear online during the day.
This should include the ways they communicate on connected devices, as well as all the times they might buy something online or with a credit or debit card, and all the times a security camera or other device might "see" them moving in the real world. It’s important to remember that we don’t control every connected device around us - people sometimes record and share information about us without our consent!
Remind learners not to share too much personal information as they brainstorm. They should pick items they wouldn't mind sharing with their peers later in the activity.
You can ask learners to work on sticky notes, blank paper, or a data trail timeline template you create with the questions below.
Pass out whatever kind of paper or template that learners will use for note-taking during their data trail timeline brainstorms.
Post this template in way that makes it most accessible to your learners. They should complete it for each decision they make during typical day.
- What did I do?
- When did it happen?
- Who might notice online?
- What could they find out about my online habits?
- What could they find out about where I am in the real world?
Give learners about 10 minutes for the brainstorm 8-10 privacy and security decisions they make every day.
Optional: If you have more time, invite learners to draw, map, or model all the privacy choices they face in a typical day. You could even print out a map of your local area for them to mark up at the different places they face privacy choices.
Then close this part of the lesson by running a short, 5-10 minute discussion about what your learners found. Ask for 3-5 volunteers to answer each question. Use questions like these or create your own.
- Did you find out that you have pretty healthy or pretty unhealthy privacy habits? Why do you think so?
- What were some of the decisions about privacy and security that you found that you didn’t know you were making before?
- Where do you think you have the most privacy online and off? The least? Why?
Online Activity30 minutes
In this step, you and your learners will
- Use Mozilla’s Lightbeam to see how companies use “cookies” - or special files saved by your web browser - to follow you around online.
- Use Tactical Tech’s Trackography to see how people around the world are tracked based on the news sites they read.
- Use the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF) Panopticlick to see how private and secure your browsers are from tracking.
- Review and evaluate steps you can take to ensure a more private, secure browsing experience on your computers and other devices.
Share the following with your learners:
Today we’ll use several tools to see how we’re tracked online. First, we’ll use Mozilla’s Lightbeam add-on for Firefox to see how many sites follow us to our favorite places on the web.
To use Lightbeam, click on its add-on icon in your navigation bar. It looks like this [show your learners the icon on your projected screen].
At first, Lightbeam will show you the sites that are tracking you from wherever you begin, but as you visit more and more sites, Lightbeam adds other companies and organizations that are following you and your “cookies.” Cookies are tiny bits of code that a website puts into the memory of whatever browser you use. Sites can follow you around the web by looking at your Cookies and seeing where you got them. Let’s see how it works.
Demo Lightbeam for your learners by visiting 2 or 3 community-appropriate sites you like in a new tab. Then go back to your Lightbeam tab and show students how many trackers have followed you.
Now you try it! Open a new tab next to your Lightbeam tab. Visit 4 or 5 community-appropriate sites you like and go back to your Lightbeam tab each time you go to a new page. See how Lightbeam keeps track of how many sites are tracking you.
Before moving on, ask 3-5 volunteers to answer 1 or 2 questions like these:
- What did you see in Lightbeam that surprised you about online tracking?
- Do you think browsing is a private or public experience? Why?
- In your own words, are there important, “good” reasons to track people online that are worth losing some privacy over?
Next, let’s try Trackography from Tactical Tech. Trackography lets you pick a news site from another country and then see how many companies follow its users around the world. Let’s visit the site now.
Post the link to Trackography somewhere easily readable and accessible for your learners.
Now say this:
Your job is to take 5 minutes and try to find the news site with the worst tracking. See if you can find a site that lets 5 companies track its readers and then 10 or 20 or even more. Be ready to report back to the group and tell us:
- The name of your news site.
- How many companies track its readers.
- The names of all the different countries the trackers come from around the world.
Wrap up this part of the activity by inviting 2-3 volunteer responses to questions like these:
- When you read the web for information like news or a Wikipedia entry, do you expect to be tracked?
- Why do you think companies want to track people’s reading habits?
- Do you think it’s okay to let other companies follow your users around online? Why or why not?
After that share this with your learners:
Finally, we’re going to look at our own browsers’ Internet health by using something called Panopticlick from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Panopticlick let’s us see the settings on our browsers so we know if we are easy to track or not. Sometimes, there are settings we can use to make ourselves harder to track with cookies. Other times, websites use our browsers’ “fingerprints,” as well as cookies, and it’s hard to avoid being tracked. Your browser’s fingerprint is made up of technical details about your browser and computer that other computers can read over the Internet. Since you can’t really re-write your browser or computer or hide that information, your fingerprint stays with your browser even when cookies do not.
Let’s try Panopticlick!
Share the Panopticlcik URL with your learners and then demo how it works. Invite your learners to change the privacy settings in their browsers and to test again if their browsers are easily tracked.
Say something like:
If you want to change your settings and test again, go to the “Preferences” menu on Firefox, which is under the three-line icon in the upper right-hand corner of the window. You can also click on the three-dot icon in Chrome, go to “Settings,” and then go to “Privacy” under “Advanced Settings” in that browser. Take another few minutes to mess with your settings and test again using Panopticlick. Try to make your browser as secure as possible!
End this part of the lesson with a few volunteer responses to questions like:
- What did you learn about making your browser more difficult to track?
- How easy or difficult do you think it is to track mobile devices and their browsers, like phones?
- How much tracking do you think we should accept? Is there such thing as too little or too much?
Reflection & Assessment5 minutes
Facilitate a brief reflective discussion on what your learners discovered about Internet health and privacy and security. You can record learners’ responses for the purposes of assessment, but be sure to do so in an equitable way that doesn’t disadvantage one learner or another because of your choice of medium. You might use prompts like these or create your own:
- What surprised you today?
- What are some privacy choices that you face in your everyday life? How do you handle them?
- How are your privacy and security needs handled on a healthy Internet?
- How do you know if an app, service, or website has unhealthy privacy and security asks or habits?
- In your own words, how would you explain the importance of privacy and security for a healthy Internet to a family member or friend?
Learn more about privacy and security with the Internet Health Report!Next activity→Decentralization Activity