2. Privacy and Freedom of Speech

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  • Privacy represents an important area of society that is being impacted by computers. Just Google for your favorite recording artist or movie star. They don't have much privacy - there are pictures of them everywhere. Their personal information is very public.
  • Freedom of speech takes on new meaning in cyberspace. While it is possible for repressive regimes to control print and broadcast media, it is much more difficult to control online publication. This is especially true when the source of the information is outside the jurisdiction of those endeavoring to control speech.
  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) aims primarily to give control to European Union citizens and residents over their personal data and to simplify the regulatory environment for international business by unifying the regulation within the EU. It also addresses the export of personal data outside the EU.

Your personal information may not be so public, but it could be. See how easy it is to find your phone number and address using one of the online services. While this is great if old friends are trying to reach you, it could be a problem if the interest is unwanted.

In this topic, we will look at issues surrounding privacy and how to protect your personal information. The "worst case" is identity theft - a growing problem that is extremely hard for the victim to recover from. Being aware of these issues is an important first step.

Learning outcomes

  • explore the topic of Privacy through reading, media and related assignments
  • facilitate an online discussion about Privacy
  • explore web resources associated with this topic
  • learn about blogging and personal publishing on the web
  • consider how society is impacted by the application of computers and the Internet to Privacy issues


  • privacy, data collection, surveillance, Fourth Amendment, personalization, privacy regulations, public records, communications interception, encryption, freedom of speech, media, spam, ad blockers, offensive speech, censorship, anonymity, net neutrality, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), 2-factor authentication, phishing

Study questions

  • How do you feel about your own privacy when you are using technology? Are you more or less concerned than transacting in other media?
  • How safe is your personal information?
  • Do you think "big brother" is watching you?
  • If more health data was collected, researchers could cure more health problems. Do you agree? Would you allow you health records to be shared with researchers if your personal identity were hidden?
  • Is there a right to privacy? How far should that extend? What limits are necessary?
  • How has the internet changed the meaning and application of the First Amendment's protection of freedom of the press?
  • What is offensive speech? What should be prohibited or restricted by law in cyberspace?
  • What must be done to protect children in cyberspace? How is this different from protection elsewhere?
  • How is the Communications Decency Act being viewed by supporters and opponents?
  • What are some of the outcomes that could result from the global nature of the internet? Access to information? Different points of view? Lies and propaganda?
  • Should anonymity be allowed? Encouraged? Protected?
  • To what extent can new communities develop over the internet? Are these "real" communities? What makes them special?
  • Is the internet a communication system that is totally neutral - without conscience, principle or morality?


To make the course more interactive, some discussions will required that you post a meaningful comment about your review of posts by other students. These responses also help everyone find interesting resources for the course topics.

  • Review - Just read what others have posted - No comments or reply required. There are good resources here if you are interested in learning more about the topic.
  • Reply / Respond / Comment - Discussion participation - Post to this discussion with additional questions or comments.

  1. Before you start the reading and the assignments, take a few minutes to think about what you already know about the topic - Privacy and Freedom of Speech. What don't you know? What questions do you have? Write a sentence or two about this in the I have questions... discussion.

  2. Read the Study notes for an overview for the topics that will be covered.

  3. Read, view, listen to several selections in the Media lists. There is no textbook for this course, so you will have to determine how many of these resources to read and watch. Use the study questions and assignments to guide your research. Have you found answers to most of the questions? If not, look for other sources of information. This is self-directed learning.

  4. Choose 2 words from the Keywords list. Find 1-2 resource that provides information about the words and how they relate to the course. Post the words, links to your selected resource, and a brief description about your selections, to the discussion Privacy and Freedom of Speech keywords. Review 2-3 other resources in the discussion.

  5. If you haven't read the course Syllabus - CIS 2 Computers and Society, do it NOW. There is a lot of important information here. Complete the I have read the Syllabus quiz.

  6. Add a small picture to accompanies your posts in the discussions. Edit your profile - any small image file can be uploaded. For best results, it should be 100x100 pixels in size.

  7. Find one resource that talks about privacy and computers that you think is particularly interesting. This resource can be an article, blog post, diagram, chart, video, podcast, or an infographic.
    Write a brief summary of the key point and a "critical thinking" question about the social issues discussed. What is the impact on society? Why is this important? Be sure your question will encourage discussion on why this is important. Post the web address of the Privacy resource you selected, a sentence that prompted your question, and your question to discussion topic Privacy and Personal Information.
    Participate in at least 2 other discussions by responding to the questions. Facilitate your discussion by responding to the replies to your original post..

  8. Providing your location - For many apps and websites, you provide a location or permit access to the location of your phone (and you). Community news is location based. Some retailers are even using your location to send promotions as you pass their store! Find a resource that provides location-specific information or services - NOT maps, and not one that someone has already posted. Post a link to the resource and a brief summary to the Location-based information and services discussion. Review 2 others.

  9. Blog (weB LOG) / Vlog (video) - A blog/vlog is a journal that is available on the web. Video logs (vlogs) are increasing in popularity. Search the web and find a blog or vlog on a topic that interests you. There are many directories of blogs and vlogs. Write 3-4 sentences describing the blog or vlog that you selected, and post it along with the web address to the discussion Blogs/Vlogs of Interest.
    Visit several of the other blogs/vlogs in the discussion. Do you have your own blog/vlog? Do you follow any blogs/vlogs regularly? Which ones? What does blogging/vlogging indicate about society today?

  10. Advertising, social media, influencers - Advertising is big business. How are you going to know you need a product or service without advertising? The internet provides many ways for sellers to promote to potential buyers. How effective are these? Find a video or an article that addresses changes in advertising on the internet. Post a link to your resource and a brief summary to the Advertising, social media, influencers discussion.

  11. Just like a tattoo, your digital reputation is an expression of yourself. It is highly visible, and hard to remove. Explore how your online identity affects you, your friends, your school and your job - for better and for worse - and how to make informed choices. Take the self-assessment at Digital Tattoo Privacy and Surveillance quiz.
    There are a number of resources relating to these topics. Spend some time reviewing the tutorials for areas where you need more information.

  12. What is the internet, really? When we talk about the internet, what does that look like? Hardware, software, networking, communications, manufacturing, sales and service providers. Pick one aspect of the internet infrastructure and find 2-3 resources that provide information to help understand what the internet is, its components and operation and new technologies such as blockchain and quantum computing. Post a summary of your findings and the links to the Internet infrastructure discussion.
    AND Reply the posts of 2-3 others. What is the relationship between your findings and theirs.

  13. Culture - The internet and technology have had a dramatic impact on cultures around the world. Sometimes for good, sometimes not. Being aware of these is fundamental to our understanding of the internet in society. Find and post a resource that addresses some observations of interactions or reactions between culture and technology to the Culture and Technology discussion along with a brief description of the importance of this interaction.

  14. Learning Literacies - Protect it - Digital Citizenship. We have already looked at a number of these issues. Here is an opportunity to review 2-3 articles in the Protect it media selections, and then search online for another good resource on the topic. Rate 2 articles. Post a link and a brief summary of the reasons for each of your selections to the Learning Literacies - Protect it discussion. Review 2 others.

  15. Specific areas of interest. We don't have a textbook, so the topics covered in the course are somewhat flexible. Everyone participates in defining the topics addressed in the course. Propose questions or topics related to the overall course subject of technology, computers, the internet and society that you want the course to explore. Post a note to the Interesting topics discussion. If you want to examine a related resource, include a link as well.

  16. Reflection - Read Things You Really Need to Learn written by Stephen Downes in 2006. Downes suggests ten life skills that are still being discussed today. What is the ONE best piece of advice? What would you add? This should be no more than 3-4 sentences. Use the I think... 2 assignment to submit your note.

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