Students begin this lesson by investigating some of the world's biggest data breaches to get a sense for how frequently data breaches happen within companies and organizations, and what kinds of data and information is lost or given up. Afterwards, students will use the Data Privacy Lab tool to investigate just how easily they could be uniquely identified with a few seemingly innocuous pieces of information. At the conclusion of the lesson, students will research themselves online to determine just how much someone could learn about them by conducting the same searches and "connecting the dots."


Students will be able to:


While there are many potential benefits associated with the collection and analysis of large amounts of data, these advances pose a constant risk to our collective security and privacy. Large-scale data breaches mean that the details of our personal, professional, and financial lives may be at risk. In order to prevent personal data from being linked to an individual person, personally identifying information, such as name, address, or identification number, is often removed from publicly available data. Nevertheless, through the use of computational analysis it is often possible to "re-identify" individuals within data based on seemingly innocuous information.

We need to help students acknowledge that as more of our lives is digitized, questions of security and privacy become ever more prevalent.



Activity Guides

Getting Started

Open 'The World's Biggest Data' Breach link in the Resources section. This page is not entirely accessible, so the students may need to work with a partner or the teacher if their screen reader isn't functioning well. What kind of data is being lost? And how much? What kinds of issues could arise from this data getting into the wrong hands? We've spent a lot of time examining some potential benefits of collecting and analyzing data. There are some risks associated with collecting all of this information. If it falls into the wrong hands or is used in ways we didn't intend, there may be serious risks imposed on our privacy or security. The following activities are going to start fully examining this problem.

In the data breaches that the students just reviewed, some fairly important pieces of information were stolen. Credit card numbers, passport information, or government security clearances are obviously not something we'd like to fall into the wrong hands. Other pieces of information, however, don't seem that bad. However, invite the students to think about the information we usually share without a second thought (ex. ZIP code, birthday).

Activity 1: Data Privacy Lab

Discussion Questions:

Think about the following ideas and discuss: we can be uniquely identified from just a few pieces of information. Even information we would not normally consider to be "sensitive" can still be used to identify us. There are security and privacy concerns raised as a result of most information about us being available online.

Activity 2: Research Yourself

Open the Activity Guide - Research Yourself. Students will work individually and will need access to a computer and the Internet. The students will be asked to research themselves online, making note of any and all pieces of information they are able to find. Some guidelines follow:

Activity: AP Practice - Identify the Data Concern

Ask the students to choose two responses below that would earn the point as data storage, security, or privacy concern with justifications.

Use the following scoring guide to assess the students

AP Scoring Guide

Wrap Up

Discussion question for the students: Share your feelings with the teacher and other students if possible. What information were you able to find about yourself? Were you able to make connections in the data you collected to figure out anything else? Were you concerned about anything you were able to find?


Ask the students to consider the following scenario:

Then answer the following:

Extended Learning

Standards Alignment