Is Online Test-Monitoring Here to Stay?against five proctoring companies, arguing that they illegally collect students’ personal data. On December 3rd, six U.S. More recently, several students in Illinois have sued their institutions for using the software, alleging that it violates their rights under a state law that protects the privacy of residents’ biometric data. senators sent letters to Proctorio, ProctorU, and ExamSoft, requesting information about “the steps that your company has taken to protect the civil rights of students,” and proof that their programs securely guard the data they collect, “such as images of [a student’s] home, photos of their identification, and personal information regarding their disabilities.” (Proctorio wrote a long letter in response, defending its practices.) On December 9th, the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center submitted a complaint to the attorney general of D.C.
Adding sources of light seems to help, but it comes with consequences. Now, whenever he sits down to take an exam using Proctorio, he turns on every light in his bedroom, and positions a ring light behind his computer so that it shines directly into his eyes. “That’s hard when you’re actively trying not to look away, which could make it look like you’re cheating.” When we first spoke, last November, he told me that, in seven exams he’d taken using Proctorio, he had never once been let into a test on his first attempt.
Like many test-takers of color, Yemi-Ese, who is Black, has spent the past three semesters using software that reliably struggles to locate his face. Despite these preparations, “I know that I’m going to have to try a couple times before the camera recognizes me,” he said. “I have a light beaming into my eyes for the entire exam,” he said. Students with dark skin described the software’s failure to discern their faces. Other anecdotes call attention to the biases that are built into proctoring programs.
Low-income students have been flagged for unsteady Wi-Fi, or for taking tests in rooms shared with family members. In video calls with live proctors from ProctorU, test-takers have been forced to remove bonnets and other non-religious hair coverings—a policy that has prompted online pushback from Black women in particular—and students accessing Wi-Fi in public libraries have been ordered to take off protective masks.
Transgender students have been outed by Proctorio’s “ID Verification” procedure, which requires that they pose for a photograph with an I.D. that may bear a previous name. Meanwhile, rising vaccination rates and schools’ plans to reopen in the fall might seem to obviate the need for proctoring software. But some universities “have signed multi-year contracts that opened the door to proctoring in a way that they won’t just be able to pull themselves out of,” Jesse Stommel, a researcher who studies education technology and the editor of the journal Hybrid Pedagogy, said.
“They have committed to paying for these services for a long time, and, once you’ve made a decision like that, you rationalize using the software.