‘16-‘17 General Discussion for Lesson 4.3


Use this thread to discuss your questions and comments about how to run the lesson.


This lesson ran a bit short for me this year… some students really struggled finding things. This was especially true for students with really common names - “Andrew Smith” for example. For those students, they might need to do their name and school or maybe research someone else, like a parent or something. Most of them just “helped” their friend dig up information.

One student found out a lot of information about herself - like she learned things she didn’t know about herself. For students like her, 20 minutes was the right amount of time, other students though got disengaged if they couldn’t find anything.

I think next year I might combine this with lesson 4 but we will see how lesson 4 goes first.

BTW - again I had students look me up. Again, this was when they had extra time so be careful with that. I researched myself first knowing this would happen, just watch out for that!


I had a similar experience. Most of my students did not find much information about themselves. They ended up looking for their family members and me. Once one student found information about me, all of them started digging up my information and found my home address too. I would definitely discourage them from looking me up in the future and focus on their family members. Limiting the time spent on this lesson would prevent this from happening.


Hi, In the Data Privacy Lab I have a student who is a twin and it still only comes up with Easily identifiable by birthdate (about 1). Now my students are questioning the reliability of the site. Of course I was able to steer them to the relevant discussion…but still…


@janel.lemieux I had the same thing happen - it sounds like you handled it pretty well by steering the conversation back on track - that’s tough when you are a bit blind sided by it. I actually love how your students are thinking more critically about this data and where it comes from - that’s awesome!

If you look into the 'how it works" information, there definitely is a mini stats lesson going on behind the scenes:

“This service allows an individual to see how unique his demographics may be using the latest Census data [2]. For example, the Census data reports 4 males of age 20 living in ZIP code 01008. There are 365 days in a year that a birthdate can assume, so at most, each can be unique based on date of birth, gender and 5-digit ZIP code.”

So, that’s why they were reporting 1 person, because there were not 365 people who shared the same gender, age, and zip stats. More important to data in computer science, the creators discuss why even basic information about a person might be troublesome:

“Why is this a problem? Often people share data about you with your name, address, and Social Security number removed, but your demographics may remain. If your demographics are unique in the general population, then they will be unique everywhere recorded. So the if information about you is in a dataset without your name and other information about you is in another dataset with your name, and both datasets have your demographics, these datasets can be linked together by matching your demographics.”

It might be worth discussing this with students if you think it would be of interest to them.


So I read the forums and saw that the lesson may not take an entire class period. I modified it quite a bit. The Ted Talk after the Big Data talk is quite interesting. It is about visualizing big data, and his website is referenced in this lesson (data breaches). I used the Ted Talk and website to talk about benefits of big data and then went into the breaches and discussed harmful effects of big data. Then they got to the research part. I had them research a classmate. They found it interesting, but also didn’t find a lot about themselves. It was engaging, but the research part doesn’t take long - like 20 minutes. Here is a link to my modified assignment, if interested. It stretched out to 2 1/2 days.


I did this lesson today. It went well except when one student was researching himself, the obituary of his mom came up. I noticed he was upset and he took a walk. I felt badly about that.


That is sad. Unfortunately, it can’t be prevented. But,we can definitely fore-warn them that they may find some unexpected stuff and to be prepared.


I’m trying to find a replacement for the Data Privacy Lab site as we’re located in Canada and this tools will not function for our students. Is anyone aware of either

  1. A reliable system that does provide information in Canada
  2. Mock entries that can be used to search this Privacy Lab and provide generic results as exemplars?


Great question! I would take a look at the “samples” on the website. That has some exemplars.

That has some great examples there for students to read. You should be able to still do some examples, so perhaps if people have family or a friend in the US, you could take a look at that. Otherwise, you could put in dummy data yourself (you can use the “samples” data if you wanted to do a live demo).

I find this to be a great warm-up activity, but the bulk of the class is connected to having students research themselves. So, if you cannot use the Data Privacy Lab site as intended, I think the samples would work just fine.

I hope that helps! KT


I just found this quick 5 minute video that I’m going to share with students if I have time leftover: