Lesson 4: The Value of Privacy


Students develop their own opinions on the privacy tradeoffs inherent in many modern computing innovations. At the beginning of the lesson students watch a video on facial recognition technology that presents the tradeoffs between convenience and privacy and asks them to determine whether they think the tradeoff is worth it. Students respond to two videos that look at different tradeoffs between privacy, security, and convenience. Students then evaluate the website or app they investigated in the previous lesson to determine if they think the benefits of the service outweigh the privacy risks. At the end of the class students discuss whether they generally think convenience outweighs privacy concerns.


The previous lesson exposed students to much of the data that is collected by the services they use, but it didn't ask them to reflect on their own opinions of those practices. This lesson now asks students to form opinions of their own about how a digital world in which more and more important innovations seem to come at the cost of their personal privacy.


Lesson Modifications

Warm Up (0 mins)

Activity (35 mins)

Wrap Up (5 mins)

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Students will be able to:

  • Evaluate whether the benefits to society from a given computing innovation outweigh the privacy risks it poses.
  • Assess a computing innovation to identify the specific privacy risks that could arise from the data it collects and stores.
  • Explain the risks to privacy that arise from using modern computing technology


  • Review the videos to make sure you are prepared to lead the subsequent discussions
  • Make sure you have access to the activity guides students completed in th previous lesson


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

For the Teachers

For the Students

Teaching Guide

Lesson Modifications

Attention, teachers! If you are teaching virtually or in a socially-distanced classroom, please read the full lesson plan below, then click here to access the modifications.

Warm Up (0 mins)

Teaching Tip

Move Quickly to the Main Activity: An optional prompt is provided but otherwise move quickly into watching and reviewing the videos so that students will have enough time to complete their activity guides.

Distribute: As students walk in give them copies of their Privacy, Security, and Innovation - Activity Guide which they began filling out in the previous lesson.

Prompt: Review your activity guide from last class. Remind yourself what your privacy concerns were for the app / website you chose.

Activity (35 mins)

Convenience vs Privacy - Facial Recognition - 10 mins

Discussion Goal

Goal: Use this first video to focus on the tradeoffs between convenience and privacy. Students have likely used or seen new technology that uses facial recognition that might be helpful or fun, and many examples are provided in the video. The following video focuses more on the security vs. privacy balance.

Prompt: As we watch the following video on facial recognition takes notes on:

  • What are the benefits of the technology? What does it make more convenient / fun?
  • What are the privacy concerns that arise?
  • Why would governments or businesses be interested in this technology?

Afterwards we'll discuss whether we think the benefits outweigh the privacy conerns.

Display: Show the video about facial recognition technology.

Discuss: Students should share notes with their partner about the three prompts and then discuss the provided question "Do you believe the privacy risks posed by facial recognition technology outweigh the privacy concerns?" Have students share some of their thoughts as a class.

Security vs Privacy - Should the Government Need a Warrant? - 10 mins

Discussion Goal

Goal: Use this second video to focus on the tradeoffs between security and privacy. Students may or may not be aware that cellphone service providers have access to and the ability to share data about location with the government.

Prompt: As we watch the following video on location data takes notes on:

  • What kind of data is being collected and shared?
  • Who is the “third party” in this situation?
  • Why is this a tradeoff between privacy and security?

Afterwards we'll discuss whether we think the benefits outweigh the privacy concerns.

Display: Show the video about cell phone location data.

Discuss: Students should share notes with their partner about the three prompts and then discuss the provided question "Do you agree with the Supreme Court’s ruling? Do you think it should apply to other kinds of data?" Have students share some of their thoughts as a class.

Privacy Tradeoffs - Your Innovation - 15 mins

Teaching Tip

Developing an Informed Opinion: This lesson has asked students to hold off on weighing in on the innovations they researched in the previous class to develop a more nuanced and informed opinion about the tradeoffs between innovation, privacy, and security. As students move to this last activity, remind them of the more nuanced opinion they've developed, and ask them to reflect on how the different examples they've seen impact their overall opinions on this tradeoff.

Prompt: Individually fill in the last page of your activity guide.

Discuss: Students are given a good chunk of class time to complete this activity. Ask students to reflect quietly but as individuals or groups finish they should begin discussing with one another. If most students finish early you could begin a full-class discussion.

Wrap Up (5 mins)

Discussion Goal

Goal: Use this discussion to do some classwide synthesis of today's discussions about the tradeoffs between privacy and empowering new technology or ensuring security. The goal here is to move individual students to think broadly about their opinions, not force every student to have the same opinion. It's not necessary that students agree, but prompt them to think critically about this important question posed by modern technology. Some ways to do this:

  • Ask them why they hold their opinions and ask them to tie them to today's lesson
  • Ask them to give specific examples
  • Ask students who disagree to politely debate their opinions
  • Ask students to tie their opinions to their own experiences

Prompt: Based on the discussions we had today, which of the following best describes your overall feelings with sharing private data in order to power innovations or ensure security.

  • 1: Totally Comfortable: "Have my data! It makes the technology I love work and I have nothing to hide!"
  • 2: Mostly Comfortable: "I want tech innovations and stronger security. Let's make sure we take care of the most damaging privacy concerns."
  • 3: Mixed: "There's a lot of this that makes me uncomfortable, but I'm still going to use technology."
  • 4: Mostly Uncomfortable: "Privacy is more important than empowering innovations or ensuring security. I would give up on some tech innovations to ensure my privacy"
  • 5: Totally Uncomfortable: "I'd give up most technology and would like to see much stronger limits on what kind of data can be collected and stored, even if it limits the introduction of new technology"

Discuss: Have a few people from each end of the spectrum share their reasoning.

Review: Review the key takeaways at the end of the lesson.


There will always be tradeoffs between privacy and new exciting technology. Think about when you use a social media site and are offered targeted advertising based on your browser history. This can be useful! You may be introduced to things you want to buy or information you want to know about. However, it can also be harmful. Targeted advertising can be used to gather data about a user or a group of useres for malicious reasons. In this case, this innovation is not being used as it was originally intended to be used.

Consider this as you research the impacts of your computing innovations for the Innovation Simulation project.


Activity Guide: Once again collect the activity guide about the app / computing innovation that students researched in the previous lesson. If students missed the previous lesson they should use information collected by a partner about an app. A rubric included on the bottom of the activity guide can be used for assessment.

Standards Alignment

View full course alignment

CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards (2017)

IC - Impacts of Computing
  • 2-IC-23 - Describe tradeoffs between allowing information to be public and keeping information private and secure.
  • 3A-IC-29 - Explain the privacy concerns related to the collection and generation of data through automated processes that may not be evident to users.
  • 3A-IC-30 - Evaluate the social and economic implications of privacy in the context of safety, law, or ethics.
  • 3B-IC-28 - Debate laws and regulations that impact the development and use of software.


IOC-1 - While computing innovations are typically designed to achieve a specific purpose, they may have unintended consequences
IOC-1.A - Explain how an effect of a computing innovation can be both beneficial and harmful.
  • IOC-1.A.3 - Not every effect of a computing innovation is anticipated in advance.
IOC-1.B - Explain how a computing innovation can have an impact beyond its intended purpose.
  • IOC-1.B.1 - Computing innovations can be used in ways that their creators had not originally intended:●       The World Wide Web was originally intended only for rapid and easy exchange of information within the scientific community. ●       Targeted advertising is
IOC-1.F - Explain how the use of computing could raise legal and ethical concerns.
  • IOC-1.F.11 - Computing innovations can raise legal and ethical concerns. Some examples of these include:●       the development of software that allows access to digital media downloads and streaming●       the development of algorithms that include bias●       th
  • IOC-1.F.8 - As with any technology or medium, using computing to harm individuals or groups of people raises legal and ethical concerns.
  • IOC-1.F.9 - Computing can play a role in social and political issues, which in turn often raise legal and ethical concerns.
IOC-2 - The use of computing innovations may involve risks to your personal safety and identity
IOC-2.A - Describe the risks to privacy from collecting and storing personal data on a computer system.
  • IOC-2.A.1 - Personally identifiable information (PII) is information about an individual that identifies, links, relates, or describes them. Examples of PII include:●       social security number●       age●       race●       phone number(s)●       medical infor
  • IOC-2.A.10 - Commercial and governmental curation of information may be exploited if privacy and other protections are ignored.
  • IOC-2.A.11 - Information placed online can be used in ways that were not intended and that may have a harmful impact. For example, an email message may be forwarded, tweets can be retweeted, and social media posts can be viewed by potential employers.
  • IOC-2.A.12 - PII can be used to stalk or steal the identity of a person or to aid in the planning of other criminal acts.
  • IOC-2.A.15 - Information posted to social media services can be used by others. Combining information posted on social media and other sources can be used to deduce private information about you.