Explore some of the types of data collected by websites and apps. Then learn about their digital footprint and how to control and protect their data.
Adapted from step five of the Cadette Cybersecurity Safeguards badge.
Setup: The internet is a powerful tool! You can chat with friends, research school projects, play games, watch videos, or listen to music. The downside is that you leave information about yourself with every screen tap and click of the mouse. Some platforms, like social media, allow you to share personal information, but every program or app you use collects data and metadata about you. It’s a good idea to think carefully about the kind of information you are sharing every time you visit a website or use an app.
Time needed: 20 minutes
- Seven sheets of paper
- One black marker
- Two colored markers
First, use a black marker to label the blank papers as follows (one on each sheet of paper): Email, Messages, and Chat; Social Media and Networking; Online Banking and Shopping; Media (Video, Photo, and Music); News and Information; Games; School-Related.
Then, think about the types of apps and online services you use most regularly across each of the categories listed on the papers and jot them down with a marker. For example, “Instagram” would be written under “Social Media and Networking” and “YouTube” under “Media.”
Now, think about the different kinds of data that you have stored on each app or website. For example, do you have an account? If yes, you might have a username and password stored on that site. Is your parents’ credit card stored there for any reason? What about your address? Have you created specialized playlists or listed your preferences in a profile somewhere?
Take five minutes to write down as many types of data as you can think of on the appropriate paper with the colored (non-black) marker. Go from paper to paper as you think of new ideas. Try to think of as many as possible.
Next, imagine that a hacker was going to get access to all the data that you have listed on these sheets. You can only protect six pieces of data. Using a different colored (non-black) marker, draw stars by the six pieces of data that you think are the most valuable and that you most want to protect.
Once you’ve decided, step back and look at where the stars are. Ask yourself:
- Why do you think certain pieces of data are more valuable than others?
- Were you surprised by how much data you’ve given to those apps and websites? Why or why not?
- Is there any data that you’ve given to some of these websites that they don’t really need?
- Have you set up any accounts that you don’t really use? Why might that be an issue?
- What could you do to protect yourself? How can you protect the data that you have stored in those places?
Finally, check out the Things to Know below to wrap up the activity.
THINGS TO KNOW:
- One of the very best ways to protect your data is to use strong, unique passwords for every single account you have.
- You just created an inventory of your accounts and the data that is stored on them. That will help if you're ever hacked!
- For example, if a hacker breaks into a site that you know stores your parents' credit card information, then you need to tell your parents right away so they can cancel the card and get a new one.