Short Assignment: Using Anti-Surveillance Tools

The purpose of this assignment is to ask student groups to give brief presentations on how to use online, anti-surveillance tools and analyze potential benefits and drawbacks of these tools.  I include this assignment after students have read and discussed controversies regarding governmental and commercial surveillance.

Students work in small groups; each group is assigned tool a week before class session.  I give students about 10 minutes of class time to meet with their group a few days before their presentation, then 15 minutes at the beginning of class to synthesize their material for presetations.

Ghostery – Download a version of Ghostery that works with a browser you use here: Make sure that Ghostery has been enabled as an extension on your browser (for most browsers you can check by going to settings –> extensions).

As you search the web, what kinds of information does Ghostery provide? Try clicking on some of the tracking devices to get more info.

Read the Wikipedia article on Ghostery, explore Ghostery’s website, and do 30 minutes of your own internet research and reading to be ready to discuss these question in the class: What does Ghostery do for users? What are some of the different options it gives users in terms of what you can block? What kinds of information does Ghostery itself collect? How does Ghostery make money?

Tor Browser — You can get the Tor browser here:

Use the Tor browser for web searching – try comparing searches on Tor with those on other browsers such as Explorer, Firefox, or Chrome. What is different about Tor from a users’ perspective?

Read the Wikipedia article on Tor and do30 minutes of your own internet research and reading to be able to explain these questions to the class: Who developed Tor and why? What kinds of information about users does Tor attempt to protect? What are some examples of reasons why people use Tor? Does Tor have weaknesses or vulnerabilities?

DuckDuckGo — You do not need to download DuckDuckGo (unless you want to use it as a mobile app), just go here:

Explore DuckDuckGo’s About Us page, read this article ( and do 30 minutes of your own internet research reading about the purpose of DuckDuckGo and what it does differently from search engines like Google and Yahoo.

Try several different types of searches on DuckDuckGo and compare them to searches on Google. Try thinking about what types of searches are most likely to differ between these engines (what types of searches will Google tailor to your own search history and location?).   Through reading about DuckDuckGo and using it, be ready to discuss these questions:

  • What kinds of information does DuckDuckGo keep private about its users? Does it collect any info about searches?
  • How does DuckDuckGo differ from other search engines? What do you notice in your comparisons?


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