In the News

- December 13th 2011


This week on the Today Show: Mark Zuckerberg gets his Facebook account hacked; and, one New York Times reporter finds out that privacy is but a thing of the past.

This Year’s Social Networking Trend: Private—It’s the New Public!

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You already know there are great benefits to social networking, and 75% of you have a social network account . But have you noticed the number of news articles about people getting fired, embarrassed, even arrested because of something they posted online seems to be skyrocketing? It’s now a daily occurrence to read how someone’s social networking comments, photos, videos or blogs, have caused them harm in some way.

In the news this week, the New York Times posted an article titled Disruptions: Privacy Fades in Facebook Era that looked at the increasingly public view into your private posts.

For the Press

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News reports about the repercussions of sharing thoughts, attitudes, actions photos, videos, and more through online services have increasingly been making headlines this year. Whether personal information and private comments are exposed through leaks, hacks, changes in privacy settings, new features, or general indiscretion, the fallout is beginning to catch up with consumers of all ages.

Based on a Dec 11th 2011 article in the New York Times, Privacy Fades in Facebook Era, and the recent FTC ruling against Facebook, Facebook Settles FTC Charges That It Deceived Consumers By Failing To Keep Privacy Promises, this lesson will help students develop an understanding of the very real likelihood that any content they post online will be seen by far more people than they intended to share with, and how understanding this reality can help them make smarter choices about what and what not to share.

Grades - Appropriate for Grades 6-12

Time Required - 30-45 minutes

Key Concepts

Students should understand key concepts of personal privacy and information exposure as well as the vocabulary related to digital privacy.

  • 35% of consumers are concerned about their privacy in a connected internet lifestyle.

  • You ‘pay’ for free services with your information. Every piece of your content has commercial value – including information about your emotions, your likes and dislikes, your location, your spending power, and the groups and organizations to which you belong.

  • The privacy of your online content is not solely determined by your privacy settings, it is also subject to choices of the services you use and these can change at any time.

  • Even when a company consistently manages their privacy policy, your content – comments, posts, photos, videos, profile, location, etc., is at risk through leaks, hacks, new features and the choices made by your friends.

  • Content you’ve posted, or others have posted about you, will affect your options in the future.

  • Most of your content has value to hiring managers, existing employers, college administrators, and others who want to make instant decisions about whether or not to interact with you.

  • Privacy laws have not kept pace with technology’s ability to collect and package your information or with companies’ drive to profit from your information.

Materials & Resources

Equipment Needed None. (Online video optional)
Full News Article New York Times article, Dec 11th 2011,
“Privacy Fades in Facebook Era”
FTC ruling against Facebook:
“Facebook Settles FTC Charges That It Deceived Consumers By Failing To Keep Privacy Promises”
Lesson Plan Public Posts Document Problematic Pasts
Lesson Presentation Companion Presentation


1. Privacy through obscurity
– refers to the ability to remain anonymous when others are unable to collect your information in a way that ties that information back to you.
2. Commodity
– an item or product that can be bought and sold
3. Six degrees of separation
– refers to the idea that everyone is on average approximately six steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person on Earth, so that a chain of, "a friend of a friend" statements can be made, on average, to connect any two people in six steps or fewer.

Learning Activities

Search yourself:

Have students see what information they can find about themselves online. Suggest they use at least 2 different search engines, scour Facebook and other social sites they use, look on their school website, youth and sports groups websites, look at county records, and so on. Have them also use photo recognition tools in Facebook and Google, as well as search through their own photos and videos to see what information may be exposed through these. Once they know what’s out there about them, suggest they work to remove any content that could cause them damage in the future.

Map your Friends network:

LinkedIn shows users just how far their connections reach making it easy to see who has access to you and your information. Have students calculate their own extended network to understand just how large of a pool of people see their content.

  • Hint: If student’s Friend’s list is huge, let them use Facebook’s average user (which has 130 friends) to calculate their connections.

  Learning Activities

Professional Development

This lesson looks closely at maintaining personal privacy in online social networks. You can leverage this lesson to increase our own learning by gaining a deeper understanding of one or both of these areas:

  Professional Development

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