7.2.1 - Introduction (15 min)
Warm-up (15 minutes)
ASK: What kinds of information about yourself do you share online?
Students will likely respond that they share information about themselves in online profiles and on social networking sites.
ASK: What else do you do online that reflects who you are?
Students should understand that the searches they perform and websites they choose to visit also reveal information about themselves.
TEACH the Key Vocabulary terms track and target. Explain to students that when they input information into a website – such as profile information or search terms – they are telling that site something about themselves. The companies that run the sites track this data. They then use it to target students with specific content, especially advertising related to their interests.
EXPLAIN that you are going to discuss the kinds of data companies collect about users, and the benefits and risks of companies having this information.
Optional: SHOW students the video “Does It Matter Who Has Your Data?” or the video “ .” Elicit student reactions, and ask how it might relate to the idea of targeting and tracking.
EXPLAIN that one of the first companies to track and target users online was Amazon.com. It created technology that could match people’s preferences with other users whose buying habits were like their own, and make recommendations on that basis. This kind of targeting worked, and Amazon’s sales grew rapidly. More recently, Amazon began to sell e-books (electronic books). With e-books, the company can track information about what you read, what pages you skip, and what you highlight. Amazon then uses this information to figure out what books to recommend to you (Pariser, The Filter Bubble, 2011, p. 29). Other companies, such as Netflix (which offers movies that you can order by DVD or stream online) and Pandora (which allows you to rate music in real time), have a similar model: Based on your choices, they try to determine your tastes. Then they recommend products that reflect those tastes.
ASK: What do you think are companies’ goals in tracking your information?
Students should understand that tracking allows companies to target them with personalized content, usually to tailor their experience on the website, or to deliver advertising aimed at them.
ASK: What do you think of tracking and targeting?
Some students may believe that this is an invasion of their privacy or makes them feel uncomfortable; others might find that personalized information is useful to them or makes them feel special.
ASK: Do you think it is okay for companies to collect information about you?
Opinions will vary. Explain that you will debate this issue later in the lesson.