Is Online Test-Monitoring Here to Stay?

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that may bear a previous name. Transgender students have been outed by Proctorio’s "ID Verification" procedure, which requires that they pose for a photograph with an I.D. 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.

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. Meanwhile, Proctorio is also monitoring the room around you for unauthorized faces or forbidden materials. It compares your rate of activity to a class average that the software calculates as the exam unfolds, flagging you if you deviate too much from the norm. At the end of the exam, the professor receives a report on each student’s over-all "suspicion score," along with a list of moments, marked for an instructor to review, when the software judged that cheating might have occurred.

Proctorio, which operates as a browser plug-in, can detect whether your gaze is pointed at the camera; it tracks how often you look away from the screen, how much you type, and how often you move the mouse. Last spring, during a Zoom meeting with a professor, Yemi-Ese learned that the software had flagged him for moving too much. He feared that, if he showed physical signs of anxiety, Proctorio was "going to send the video to the professor and say that suspicious activity is going on." The software, he said, "is just not accurate.

So I don’t know if it’s seeing things that aren’t there because of the pigment of my skin." "I had to try to calm down," he said. His dread of the software only increased after he was kicked out of an exam when a roommate dropped a pot in the kitchen, making a clang that rang through their apartment. "I feel like I can’t take a test in my natural state anymore, because they’re watching for all these movements, and what I think is natural they’re going to flag," he told me.

(Proctorio says that its software does not expel users from exams for noise.) By the time his professor let him back into the test, he had lost a half hour and his heart was racing. 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. On December 3rd, six U.S. 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.


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