Collecting Personal Data

Created: March 2017

Last Updated: April 2020

This learning experience is part of a playlist — two or more learning experiences focused on specific areas of the digital world. You can find this playlist, Building and Protecting Your Online Presence, here. This particular learning experience is the third in a sequence of six. Learning experiences in a playlist build off of each other, but they were designed so that they can also be completed on their own!

Estimated time: 

30 minutes

  • [10 minutes] Activity
  • [20 minutes] Challenge 
Group or individual activity: Individual 
Ages:13-18 years old
Grades:Grades 8-12
Online / offline elements: This learning experience contains an offline activity, with a challenge that requires a computer or mobile device with Internet access. 

Main area: Privacy and Reputation

Additional areas: Data, Security

License: This learning experience has been created by Youth and Media and is licensed under a Creative Commons AttributionShareAlike 4.0 International license. For more information, please visit

Learning Goal

Identify and describe an example of an instance where you felt data about you was being collected or repurposed.


  • Computer or mobile device with Internet access 

  • [Optional] Paper

  • [Optional] Pen or pencil


Have you ever used a service like Spotify where songs are recommended to you based on your previous music choices? Have you tried navigating your surroundings with Google Maps and realized it suggested places that are close to your current location? Or have you ever looked at something on one website and then noticed ads for it on other websites or social media platforms you visit?

This is something that might be happening because companies are using information that they gather about you. Some companies collect data on how people use their sites (from what they click on, to how long they stay there, to whether or not they buy certain things online). They do this in order to improve their service and make things more convenient or easy for you, which is great. Unfortunately, they sometimes sell this information to third parties hoping to target advertisements that they think you will like.

Most people have no idea what data is being collected about them by the websites they use. What do you think is important for people to know about data collection? Are there instances where data collection can be helpful? On the flip side, are there times that this data collection makes you feel uncomfortable, or could even be dangerous?


Check out the resources and spend some time on the websites you regularly visit. Can you figure out some ways that those sites might be tailoring what you see based on data they have about you?

Then, create an example of how your data is being used by a website or an online platform to present you with targeted content. This could be in any format (a photo, a screenshot, a written reflection, etc.). Below are a few potential ideas. You can choose one of these, do a combination of them, or come up with your own idea!

  • Write about an instance where you received a recommendation for a movie, song, or book based on what you read / watched previously.

  • Take two photos (or screenshots). First, one of an example where a product was recommended to you in the form of an advertisement. Second, a photo of your previous browsing behavior you believe the advertisement was based on.

  • Choose a social media platform you are a member of, such as Facebook or Instagram, and share your thoughts (e.g., in a paragraph, creative drawing, digital collage) as to how you believe that what you see is based on what the company knows about you.

Once you’re done with this learning experience, in the “Who Is Watching You?” learning experience, you can learn more about how you can defend yourself against the negative side of surveillance. 

Next Steps 

Excellent job finishing this challenge! We are sure that others would love to see what you learned! If possible, please share your write-up (or photos, screenshots, drawings, etc.) with an educator, mentor, or advisor, or a family member or friend. You are also welcome to share your creation with the Youth and Media team through email ( Please specify the title of the learning experience in the subject line of the email. 


Individual vs. Group 
Release Date 
April, 2020