The Fight for Online Privacy

Is it a hopeless cause?

 Who could have ever predicted that a project that began as a government initiative would become an integral part of our everyday lives? And yet, that's exactly what the Internet has become. And because of how much we use it and the ways we use it, most of us believe we should have some right to keep our online activity private.

However, in the last few weeks, a bill that was passed by the Senate and the House, and signed by President Trump, not only repealed privacy laws designed to protect our data and browsing history, it prevents the FCC from enacting any similar regulations in the future. Iman Smith of PBS NewsHour provides background information about this bill and how it may affect consumers and our interactions with our ISPs. Perhaps one of the most important items to note is that the rules the bill repeals were never actually enacted. So, essentially the bill didn't make any changes. What it did do was give the major ISPs a clear, definitive answer to how they may now use our online browsing histories.

Supporting Web Links
 Discussion Questions/Activities
  1. As a class, discuss some of the current problems and concerns students have with the Internet. How do they feel about ISPs being able to track their online activity and sell their browsing history? Are they concerned about privacy and security issues? What steps are they taking to protect themselves and their devices?
  2. Divide the class into two groups to debate the repeal of Internet privacy laws. Students may want to spend some time reviewing some of the articles in the Supporting Web Links section or locating their own sources to help support their position either for or against. Once each group has completed their research, conduct a debate. Based upon the reasons and arguments provided, determine which group won the debate.
  3. As an individual project, ask students to create and conduct a survey about online privacy. Students may choose to survey friends, family, students, or strangers (or a group of your choice) and should obtain at least 5-10 respondents. The survey should include demographic questions (age, education, profession, city, etc.) as well as questions pertaining to the Internet. Students might ask respondents for their opinion of the repealed Internet privacy laws and also ask them to rate their concerns about online security, privacy, malware, and phishing. Students might also ask respondents for suggestions to improve the Internet and their interactions with it. Students should compile their survey results and summarize their findings in a report or a presentation for the class.

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