Data Protection

"Relying on the government to protect your privacy is like asking a peeping tom to install your window blinds."

John Perry Barlow (1947 – 2018), American political activist and privacy campaigner
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This free ESL lesson plan on data protection has been designed for adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

Personal data is one of the most valuable commodities of the modern day. Hackers are constantly trying to steal it, and companies are always willing to buy it. While personal data can be used by criminals to steal people’s identities, its value lies in the ability of companies and political organisations to gain a deeper insight into the personalities of people. Armed with this information, they can sell you anything or convince you to vote for anyone. Protecting our personal data is essential if we value privacy and security. In this ESL lesson plan on data protection, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as the importance of keeping data secure and the problems caused when it is not safe.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for Data Privacy Day, which takes place in January, or Safer Internet Day, which take place in February. For more lesson plans on international days and important holidays, see the calendar of world days to plan your classes for these special occasions.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.


Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

INC | Research Reveals How Many Likes It Takes for Facebook to Know You Better Than Your Spouse

The article highlights research that concluded that if you have 70 Facebook likes, its algorithm knows you better than your friends, and with 300 likes it knows you better than your spouse. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was said? Can they think of any ways they might disagree with the content of the article?

Video activity
To save time in class for the conversation activities, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below and answer the listening questions in Section 3 of the lesson plan at home. The questions for the video are styled in a way similar to an exam like the IELTS.

The video for this class is called “Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data scandal, explained” by The Verge which looks at the data scandal which involved developers skimming personal data from Facebook apps in order to create an algorithm that could target individuals to affect their voting behaviour.


The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means and if they agree with it. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including the different types of personal information that exist, how much personal information is being shared on social media, and how to keep this information safe and secure.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with data protection such as hacker, encryption and data breach. This vocabulary has been chosen to boost the students’ knowledge of less common vocabulary that could be useful for preparing for English exams like IELTS or TOEFL. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the listening questions. Before checking the answers, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about data protection. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as how criminals can use personal data, what personal information websites collect, and how the world would be if all information were revealed.


After the class, students will write about their opinion of data protection. This could be a short paragraph or a longer piece of writing depending on what level the student is at. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise and improve their grammar with the feedback from their teacher. For students who intend to take an international English exam such as IELTS or TOEFL, there is an alternative essay question to practise their essay-writing skills.


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