Is Online Test-Monitoring Here to Stay?
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. 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.” 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.
“I have a light beaming into my eyes for the entire exam,” he said. Despite these preparations, “I know that I’m going to have to try a couple times before the camera recognizes me,” he said. Adding sources of light seems to help, but it comes with consequences. 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.
against five proctoring companies, arguing that they illegally collect students’ personal data. “A lot of times, there are issues that get publicly printed that are not actually issues,” he said. Sebastian Vos, the C.E.O. “What we will own is that we have not done a good enough job explaining what it is we do,” he said. of ExamSoft, denied that his company’s product performed poorly with dark-skinned people. Jarrod Morgan, the chief strategy officer of ProctorU, told me that his company was in need of “relational” rather than technical changes.
The surge in online-proctoring services has launched a wave of complaints. Anti-online-proctoring Twitter accounts popped up, such as @Procteario and @ProcterrorU. One student tweeted, “professor just emailed me asking why i had the highest flag from proctorio. “Now proctorio has a video of me crying,” the student wrote. Excuse me ma’am, I was having a full on breakdown mid test and kept pulling tissues.” Another protested, “i was doing so well till i got an instagram notification on my laptop and i tried to x it out AND I GOT FUCKING KICKED OUT.” A third described getting an urgent text from a parent in the middle of an exam and calling back—”on speaker phone so my prof would know I wasn’t cheating”—to find out that a family member had died.