Security vs Privacy lesson idea

Friends don’t spy; true friendship is about privacy, too.
Stephen King, Hearts in Atlantis 

This lesson idea is on topics that are interconnected and very prominent in the information age that we are living in. With tech companies collecting more and more data on our daily habits and behavior as well as the surveillance that is everywhere in first world countries students should all be affected in some form and so will inevitably hold opinions on the issues.

This lesson focuses on speaking and vocabulary as most of the ones I post do. It is best suited for strong Intermediate(B1) or higher. If you need fresh ideas you can check out the lesson ideas or to stay updated when I post new ones as well as videos that accompany them you can submit your email to the monthly newsletter.


As per usual I like starting with a quote, like the one above but you can choose any you wish. Alternatively, you can brainstorm words from your students if their level permits and then make a spidergram to separate the privacy words and security words. From there you can get them in pairs to answer a couple of questions and then lead into some vocabulary development.

Questions to start:

Do you worry about your privacy when using tech tools like your smartphone, the apps on your phone or the internet? why(not)?

How important is security to you when browsing online, using your phone or simply going out in public? Why? give examples

Do you take any precautions when using the internet or your smartphone applications? give examples

How safe do you feel in your city? on a social network? or when using the internet? describe some instances when you felt uneasy


The words here can be introduced through a spidergram and accompanied with questions. For example what are the advantages and disadvantages of biometrics/ these security measures? get feedback and monitor student discussions.

swipe cards, security cards, cameras (CCTV), body scans, alarms, security guards, drones, satellites, fencing

Verbs: to record, to monitor, to track, to screen, to eavesdrop

More words: Confidentiality, Authorization, breach, encrypt, nosy

Biometrics: DNA Genetic testing, fingerprint scanner, eye(retinal) scanner, facial recognition, activity trackers, medical chips, voice recognition, digital signatures, engagement patterns

Idiom: Mind your own business


  • Here are discussion questions that you can ask at the end of the lesson or break them up into different parts:
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of some of these security measures?
  • Which approaches to security sometimes cause people to worry?
  • Can you think of examples where privacy has been sacrificed for security? Do you agree with it?
  • What could we all do to improve our personal security?
  • Some people say we are too obsessed with security nowadays, what’s your opinion?

Speaking activity

Write statements and give them out to each individual student. For example:

  1. Mobile phones should be banned during public events and in school.
  2. Employers have the right to monitor their employees, including when and how often they leave their desk/computer or the office.
  3. It’s fair for tech companies to collect data on how we use their applications/tools, this way they can make them better.
  4. Facial recognition technology is necessary to ensure the safety of citizens.
  5. Genetic tests are great because they can help us trace our ancestry and identify potential genetic diseases, so it’s worth sharing your genetics with the private company that offers such a service.
  6. It’s safer to trust a private company than the government.
  7. Fencing around all residential developments in a city are more of a nuisance than a benefit society.
  8. All my information is private and nobody, not even the government should have a right to track or monitor my life in any way.

These are examples, but you can come up with your own. Cut them up into slips of paper and then distribute them to students. Alternatively, dictate each sentence to a student. Once they all have a statement ask them to survey the class with their statement and record the responses. Give them time to mingle and when you they finish or you think it’s enough, sit them down and write the results on the board. Then get students to report(grammar practice) some of the opinions they heard and comment all together as a class on the results. This activity can take more than 20min easily.


Here is an article by NPR on how to protect yourself online. I chose this one because you can do it as a jigsaw reading which means you cut out the sections and distribute them to students in groups of 4-5 and after they have read their sections they need to tell the members of their group what their section is about. By the end of this all students in the groups should have all the information but  through speaking and interacting with their classmates.  I didn’t just choose any article but one that is from a reliable source and relevant to the discussion.

Note: to make it easier on your students you can prepare some questions so they know what information they should ask about or make sure they know when they read. This allows for a faster transfer of information between them.

Like this lesson idea? There are many more and plenty to come. If you don’t want to miss these or my videos and blog posts on teaching tips just submit your email for my monthly newsletter.

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