Lesson 5: Digital Footprint


As students have recently spent some time thinking about the actual content that will go into their personal website, this lesson takes a step back from the unit-long project (publication of a personal website) to help students articulate what personal information they choose to share digitally and with whom. It also reinforces the notion that much of the information that they choose to share digitally falls largely out of their control the moment it is released.

Students begin by individually identifying appropriate audiences with whom they would be comfortable sharing given pieces of personal information. They then look at several social media pages to determine what sorts of information people are sharing about themselves or one another. Last, students reflect on what guidelines they think are appropriate for posting information online.

The ultimate point of this lesson is not to scare students, but rather to experientially bring students to realizing precisely what level of control they don’t have in releasing information into the web.


Now that students are beginning to share information publicly, it's crucial that we instill in them an understanding of the potential consequences of sharing personal information online.

The first activity engages students in considering specific pieces of personal information and the audiences with whom they would or would not want that information to remain private. The goal of this activity is for students to understand that for any given piece of personal information if there is any audience they would like to maintain privacy with they should consider not posting that information online.

In a follow up activity students look through several example social media profiles for fake students. Individually these pages contain relatively innocuous information, but when students cross reference information across multiple profiles they see how a detailed picture (or digital footprint) can start to form. Through this activity students see that even information that they may not see as private on its own can share more information than intended when combined with other small details.

Assessment Opportunities

  1. Understand and explain reasons that it is difficult to control who sees information published online.

    In page 2 the Social Sleuth activity guide, look at students' explanations of how information was accidentally shared.

  2. Understand and justify guidelines for safely publishing information online.

    Review students' checklists in the lesson wrap up.


Warm Up (10 min)

Activity (30-40 min)

Wrap Up (5 minutes)

View on Code Studio


Students will be able to:

  • Understand and explain reasons that it is difficult to control who sees information published online.
  • Understand and justify guidelines for safely publishing information online.


  • Print out copies of "When Does Your Privacy Matter?" for each student
  • Print out copies of "Social Sleuth" for each student (or one for each group if grouping)


Heads Up! Please make a copy of any documents you plan to share with students.

For the Teachers

For the Students


  • Digital Footprint - The collected information about an individual across multiple websites on the Internet.

Teaching Guide

Warm Up (10 min)

Your Digital Footprint

Discussion Goal

Goal: This discussion is not about coming up with a comprehensive list of personal information students may have shared with websites, nor is it to frighten them out of sharing information. The goal is for students to start thinking more critically about when and where they share information about themselves.

This will prime them for the main activity of the day, looking at specific pieces of information and audiences to consider when their privacy matters, and whether they are unknowingly giving up their privacy.

Prompt: Ask the students to consider what websites they have given personal information to. In small groups, ask students to come up with a list of websites that they have accounts on (even if they use sign in with Facebook, Google, or similar).

Discuss: Have students silently brainstorm or journal, then share with a partner, and finally share as a full class. Create a comprehensive list of all of the websites that may have their personal information.

Discuss: Ask the class about what kind of information they think these websites might have about them. You can frame it from a few different angles:

  • What information do you know you've given to a website (eg. your email address)
  • What information might you have unknowingly given to a website (eg. a picture with your home address)
  • What information might other people have shared about you without your knowledge or permission (eg. tagging you on Facebook)

Activity (30-40 min)

How Much Do You Care About Privacy?

Distribute: activity guide to "When Does Your Privacy Matter?"

When Does Your Privacy Matter?

Step 1: Individually, have students complete the grid on the front side of the activity guide. Encourage them to think critically about the consequences of each audience having access to each piece of personal information. What might seem like an innocuous piece of information might have far reaching consequences depending on who has access to it.

Discussion Goal

In the pair discussion on the Activity Guide, the goal is not to focus on what the actual private information is (like who happens to be “the favorite teacher” or the “secret crush” of a student), but rather about identifying commonalities and differences in what students deem appropriate to share with different audiences.

Students may be tempted to think about specific examples that they would or would not be comfortable with others knowing, but you want to push them towards thinking more generally of the types of information and audiences presented.

Step 2: Once students have completed the privacy grid, have them come together into pairs or small groups. They should look for cells in each grid where their partner marked a different answer than they did and discuss their choices. Encourage students to respectfully debate when they disagree on an issue. While there are no right or wrong answers here, it's useful for students to hear how others may have considered consequences (both positive and negative) that they didn't think of.

Step 3: After the small group discussion, students should complete the reflection questions on the next page of the activity guide.

Prompt: Were there any places on the grid where your discussion with your partner changed your perspective? If so, what were they?

Discuss: Have students share places where they changed their mind. Focus particularly on blind spots, assumptions, or misconceptions that students had about access to their personal information that may have been revealed through discussion with a partner.

Investigating Social Profiles

Goal: Explore how small pieces of personal information spread across multiple sites on the Internet can produce a fairly detailed picture of a person, known as a digital footprint.

Group: This activity can be done individually, but is better when students are in groups of 2-3

Distribute: activity guide to "Social Sleuth"

Transition: Send students to Code Studio.

Wrap Up (5 minutes)

Assessment Opportunity

Goal: Use this discussion to create a lasting checklist of best practices for when publishing information online. Possible checks include:

  • Could someone identify me with this information?: for example name, address, phone number, etc.
  • Do I want everyone to see this?: Don't publish anything you don't want to possibly be published to the world.
  • Do I want this to be permanent?: You lose control of information once it's published and it could be around for your entire life.

Students' lists may be different but should cover these principles and additional ones they saw in today's lesson.

Goal: Develop a common understanding of how our choices to publish information online contribute to a digital footprint.

Shaping Your Digital Footprint


The activities today focused on how social media websites contribute to a digital footprint. As we prepare to publish our first web pages, you'll need to think about how those contribute to your digital footprint.

Prompt: With your elbow partner, come up with a checklist that you can use to determine what should, and shouldn't, be posted online.

Share: Allow groups to share out their checklists, using the responses to develop a class-wide web publishing checklist. Consider making a poster of your class-wide checklist that you can refer back to throughout the unit.

View on Code Studio

Social Sleuth

Step 1: Students look through all of the provided social media pages on Code Studio. The pages represent several unique individuals, each of whom has an account on three social media platforms. They are distributed as follows (do not share this with students):

FaceSpace Chirpr instantframe
John Thomas John T @johnsnow johnsnow
Haley Gutierrez Haley G @flyinghail desertrider
Lizzie Dell Lizzie Dell @lillizard photolizzie


Students are asked to choose two users from the available profiles, but if you are short on time, you can ask students to complete just one of the footprints.

Step 2: Once they've looked through the pages, students will attempt to figure out who the two users are and answer some detailed questions about them. The footprint questions are designed to push students towards combining details from multiple social platforms and understanding that together the profiles represent more detailed information than the users probably intend to reveal about themselves. Some questions may not be answerable for all users, or may have different levels of details (full street address for one user, but only a city and state for another).

Share: Have the class share the digital footprints that they developed through the activity.


  • Which information was most difficult to find?
  • Which details were innocuous on their own, but revealed private information when combined with other details?
  • How does this make you think differently about what you choose to post online?
View on Code Studio

Social Sleuth

You will need the Social Sleuth Worksheet to complete this activity.


Click on the picture for each profile to open it.


FaceSpace: Lizzie Dell FaceSpace: John T FaceSpace: Haley G.


Chirpr: @johnsnow Chirpr:@flyinghail Chirpr: @lillizard


instantframe: johnsnow instantframe: @photolizzie instantframe:@desertrider

Standards Alignment

View full course alignment

CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards (2017)

IC - Impacts of Computing
  • 2-IC-20 - Compare tradeoffs associated with computing technologies that affect people's everyday activities and career options.
  • 2-IC-23 - Describe tradeoffs between allowing information to be public and keeping information private and secure.
NI - Networks & the Internet
  • 1B-NI-05 - Discuss real-world cybersecurity problems and how personal information can be protected.