Data, Privacy, and Identity Card Game

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Connect w/ the creators on Twitter: @saberikhan @jeannieccrowley @kennyegraves


This card game was created for students in either computer science courses or liberal arts courses to help them think about the relationship between data, privacy, and identity.

Learning Goals

  • Gain awareness of the different types of data collected and stored during online and assumed-to-be offline activities
  • Reflect on the ways different types of data, and combinations of data, can reveal more about our identity than we might be aware or be comfortable with revealing
  • Consider how the perception of harmless data collection changes when viewed through the lens of different identities
  • Talk about the types of data users have no control over and are “essential” to the functioning of the tools
  • For CS students: discuss the protection of identities and privacy when determining “essential” data for software and services

Identities and Topics

The identities you discuss with students will drastically change the focus of the conversation. We used the game to discuss data collection as a form of systematic racism (details here). The identities can be used to discuss privacy in general, intersectionality, international human rights, journalism, dissent, etc. depending upon your course focus.


  • Ask students to note privately on a piece of paper their response 1 prompt appropriate for their prior knowledge and particular focus of your activity:
  • Is privacy important? Why or why not? 
  • Is there a relationship between data collection and systemic racism?
  • Who gets to view my messages?
  • How do I know if my communication is private?
  • What type of activity need to be private?
  • Round 1, in pairs/small groups, ask students to sort data cards into different privacy levels:
  • Not collected/stored
  • Collected/stored but I can’t control sharing preferences
  • Collected/stored but remains private to me and the company/organization
  • Collected/stored and I choose who sees this information
  • Collected/stored and totally public
  • Debrief with group
  • Were there any data cards that surprised you?
  • Were there any disagreements in your group about where to put the different data cards? If you are comfortable, please share why you had different privacy preferences.
  • How do you feel about data being collected about you, but not under your control?
  • Would you change your answers if it impacted your ability to use some of the tools? (For example, Amazon giving you recommendations, Netflix sharing new content, Twitter listing posts/people you might like, etc.)
  • Are you comfortable with some of the data being collected by a company more than the government? Why or why not? This is a chance to talk about data sharing between government and corporations.
  • Round 2, in pairs or small groups, give each group an identity card found on page 2 of this doc or use an identity suggested by your students. Replay Round 1, but through the lens of the assigned identity. Round 2 can be played several times and revisited frequently as it relates to current events.
  • Debrief with group
  • Did any of your privacy selections for the data change significantly from Round 1 to Round 2?
  • How does identity impact your decision to share or not share data?
  • Would you consider privacy a right or a privilege?
  • For those willing to share, has your view on privacy changed from what you wrote on your paper?


Black Lives Matter supporter
Child of Asian Immigrant
Queer student who is not out to their parents
Family member of someone on a no-fly list
Friend of someone selected for California’s gang database
White teenager in the US

Software developer building a new online shopping site.

State Attorney General

Not collected or stored

Collected/stored but I can’t control sharing preferences

Collected/stored but remains private to me and the company

Collected/stored and I choose who sees this information

Collected/stored and Totally Public

Netflix watch history

Amazon purchase history

Locations you’ve been to based on phone’s GPS

Computer IP address

Personally identifying information (name, address, phone, etc.)


Sexual orientation

School records (grades, academic sanctions, teacher’s reports, etc.)

Insurance claims

Prescription drug history

IMs to/from best friend

Twitter DMs

Lurking on crush’s Instagram page, even if you didn’t like/click anything

Photos and videos in iCloud

Content of your emails

Your snaps

Any purchase made with your debit/credit card

Metrocard swipe history

Tolls visited and paid by EZ Pass or cashless tool by license plate

Youtube watch history

Google search over the last 6 months (even in Incognito mode)

Websites visited over last 6 months

Call log history from phone in the US

Public and private posts in Instagram

Facebook Ad profile based upon your online behaviors

IMs to/from significant other

Tinder/Grinder swipes

Sex assigned at birth

Legal name

Transcript of game chats

A list of your online pseudonyms


National origin

Political affiliation

Location you’ve been to based upon your car’s built in nav system

eBooks in your reader

Pornography viewing history

Conversations had in front of your smart device (TV, coffee pot, etc.)

Your fingerprint

Library books checked out

Drug store purchases

Tax and donation records

Credit report

Uber/Lyft/Via Rides

Keystrokes and other actions performed on a work-owned or school-owned computer

Google Drive content

Location and movement patterns

Books & articles you’ve read (Amazon, nytimes, etc.)

Type of device you use to access websites

Ads you’ve clicked on

Family members nationally and internationally

Unsent draft emails

Credit Score

International call log from your phone

Political donations to candidates

Political donations to super pacs

Comments on websites like YouTube

Sites you have accounts with

Your gait (how you walk) pattern

Reddit threads read/commented on

Webcam footage from your laptop

List of public wifi hotspot connections

WebMD search/clicks

Personal calendar

Articles in your RSS feed

Facebook “ethnic affinity” ad profile

Bank account statements

Charitable donations

Childhood photos

Default language settings

Professional associations/memberships

Facial recognition data