Privacy Essay Topics Inspired by Right to Privacy Concerns— After Edward Snowden, a former employee of the National Security Agency (NSA), leaked a series of classified documents to the press, people around the world have been talking about government surveillance and privacy concerns. Though these issues are controversial and complex, it’s important for students to have a basic understanding of what’s going on—and to start thinking about how these issues affect their world.
After learning about the information that has come to light, students need the opportunity to explore their own thoughts and feelings on this important issue.
These 50 new journal prompts offer students the chance to think about their own right to privacy, the government’s motives for surveillance, and the ramifications of wide-scale public monitoring. As they write, students can consider everything from what they would do if they found evidence of an illegal activity to what it means for the government to have such comprehensive information about its citizens.
Use these journal prompts to help students understand the controversy regarding PRISM and the NSA—and to get them thinking about their rights and expectations of privacy.
50 Privacy Essay Topics
- As Americans, do we have a right to privacy?
- Should the government be allowed to monitor phone calls, emails, and Internet searches for the purpose of learning about terrorist organizations and plans?
- Do you think that this type of data actually helps the government learn about potential threats against the US?
- Which of the programs revealed by Edward Snowden is most surprising to you? Why?
- Do you agree with that particular program? Why or why not?
- Are there any facets of the NSA’s actions that you particularly agree or disagree with? Why?
- If you found evidence that your parent or teacher was doing something wrong, what would you do with the information?
- Do you think people have a reasonable expectation of privacy when using the phone or the Internet?
- Should people have an expectation of privacy when they are in a public place?
- Do you think Edward Snowden should be considered a criminal or a hero? Why?
- What are the most important rights we have as American citizens? Why do these matter?
- Has anyone ever invaded your privacy (such as by reading your journal or text messages between you and your friends)? How did you feel?
- Why is it important for our government to have a series of checks and balances in place?
- What are some of the dangers of the government monitoring citizen behavior?
- Are there any situations in which someone might be mistakenly accused of illegal activity through this type of monitoring?
- Should the government target or watch particular people more often than others?
- Has your family changed its behavior since the NSA’s surveillance methods were exposed?
- What does it mean to keep a secret?
- Should employers or school officials be able to access someone’s Facebook or social media accounts? Why or why not?
- What would you do if you found out that someone at your school was able to read your private Facebook messages, tweets, or texts?
- If you found out that your social media account was monitored by the government, would you continue to use it?
- Do you think Edward Snowden should have released his information to the media, or should he have taken it somewhere else?
- Because of the “freedom of the press,” the media is able to act as a balance to the government’s actions. What do you think of the media’s role in this—do media outlets expose corrupt actions or do they cover up secrets from the American public?
- Has anyone ever trusted you with private information? What did you do?
- Should the US government monitor communications between officials in other countries? Why or why not?
- How has privacy changed over the past several years with the popularization of cell phones, digital cameras, and the Internet?
- Should Edward Snowden have revealed that the US was monitoring other countries? Would the situation have been less controversial if he had only exposed the monitoring of US citizens?
- Do governments have the right to monitor what their citizens are doing?
- What do you think it would be like to work for a top government organization?
- Would you want to have a job that gave you access to secret information, or would it be too much of a burden to have to keep the secrets?
- Who should have access to records and reports on the behavior of American citizens?
- What kinds of government surveillance should be allowed?
- What would you do if you found out that one of your friends was doing something illegal or wrong? Would you tell someone? Why or why not?
- Would you ever listen in on someone’s phone call or read his or her emails if you suspected the person was doing something wrong? Why or why not?
- What would you do if you were wrongly accused of an illegal activity because of a search made from your computer or because of a phone call you made? How would you feel?
- Before the NSA’s actions were exposed, did you think the government could access data from telephone or Internet records? Why or why not?
- If Edward Snowden is found guilty, what type of punishment should he have?
- What types of information do you think are most relevant for the government to monitor? Why?
- Are there other systems or programs in place that monitor the behavior of US citizens?
- Why are these new revelations of government surveillance so important? What are the long-term effects of the NSA’s actions?
- How much of what takes place on the Internet should be kept private? Why?
- Are you good at keeping secrets? Why or why not?
- Write about a time when you gave away something you were supposed to keep secret. What happened? How did you feel afterward?
- Will devices like Google Glass and the Xbox One make it harder for people to have true privacy?
- How will the information released by Edward Snowden affect the perception that other countries have of America?
- Do you think there may be more secrets regarding the NSA’s programs that haven’t yet been revealed?
- Do you think that criminals and terrorists will change their behavior now that the NSA’s programs have been revealed?
- What are some other ways that the government could track suspected terrorists?
- Would these methods be less effective, as effective, or more effective than the current programs that recently came to light? Why or why not?
- As technology improves, how do you think privacy issues will change? Why?
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