Stop the use of ProctorU at Athabasca University

Stop the use of ProctorU at Athabasca University

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Fellow Student started this petition to Athabasca University

ProctorU is an invasion of student privacy, allowing proctors to sort through and remove content off of the students device without consent (regardless of relation to test material). Proctors need access to your device before you can take your test. They have access to search history, device settings, and everything private on our computers. Students feel really helpless watching the proctor take control and do things without the students consent. 

Surveillance companies know that schools are desperate for a solution that will make online testing exactly the same as in-person testing—so they built a product and lied about its efficacy and equity. Experts warn that these spyware-like eproctoring technologies place students in danger and increase systemic inequality in education. Proctoring apps say they monitor students completing tests or other coursework from home—but what they actually do is:

1. Invade students’ privacy.

2. Compromise the security of student’s personal information and devices.

3. Disproportionately harm Black and Brown students, disabled students, and low income students.

4. Force young people to compromise their biometric and other personal information in order to get an education.

Proctoring apps offer features like facial recognition to identify students and monitor eye movements; composite “scans” that show the detail of a student’s entire room; forcing changes to privacy settings on personal devices; and more. Some of these apps require students to download software that can access everything on their computer and monitor all communications. Most of these programs don’t have a system for managing and protecting the data they collect.

These surveillance tools are inappropriate, period. They are also harming some groups more than others. Products that include facial detection, recognition, or monitoring demonstrate systemic bias against students of color, particularly Black students. There have been numerous accounts of Black students being forced to shine lights directly in their face in order to be recognized by the software, and this undoubtedly impacts testing performance. And low income students might not have high-speed internet or functioning computers to use to take these exams. They also may be flagged for movement or noises in the background if they do not have a quiet place to take a test.

The eye tracking used by online proctoring services flag “too much movement” compared to a baseless expectation by the algorithm. There are numerous medical conditions that could be responsible for this behavior. Further, frequent eye movement can easily be attributed to anxiety, learning differences, and/or neurodivergences like ADHD or autism. Students with disabilities could get flagged for “suspicious” movements or experience increased anxiety in test-taking due to these monitoring measures. And there is plenty of data to indicate that testing anxiety negatively impacts performance, with online proctoring being particularly associated with anxiety.

In August 2020, sensitive personal data of over 400,000 students leaked from ProctorU. Proctorio is threatening students and suing administrators who critique or expose their flawed and invasive features. ProctorU sent a cease and desist letter to a staff member who opposed its implementation. These companies are being pushed into schools by large educational publishing houses, who are also seeking to profit off the normalization of inappropriate mass surveillance. All these actions have made students afraid to express their valid concerns about these apps.

Online proctoring companies are facing numerous lawsuits for compromising user data and misleading students about data collection practices, especially biometric data collection like face, voice, and fingerprints. There are also students who are suing their academic institutions for forcing them to use what amounts to glorified spyware in order to complete their classes.

With online proctoring, algorithmic and human biases compound to create situations where the most marginalized and least represented students are at the highest risk of being accused of academic dishonesty. These accusations can have major consequences with limited recourse, and it places an undue and unnecessary burden on students. Recognizing these dangers, some campuses are discontinuing or strongly discouraging the use of online proctoring, including University of Michigan Dearborn, University of Southern California, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and University of British Columbia.

Schools should not be using online proctoring. Online proctoring treats students as if they are guilty until proven innocent, which is a concerning and disrespectful stance for any academic institution to take. It is an abuse of the concept of consent and desensitizes people to invasive surveillance. Further, eproctoring won’t actually stop students who are committed to cheating. Professors and institutions must choose alternative ways to assess student performance without using invasive surveillance. Schools must end any existing contracts with remote proctoring providers and ban this technology from their campuses.

To School Administrators:

Invasive proctoring apps are endangering the privacy and the education of students worldwide. This experimental technology can grant access to all corners of students’ computers, gather biometric data, and use false science to decide if students are cheating or not.

These proctoring apps are largely unregulated and generally up to professors to implement. They unfairly put students’ ability to complete courses in jeopardy, expose their private information and images to abuse, and disproportionately impact Black and Brown students, disabled students, and low income students.

Such inappropriate surveillance should not be a requirement for getting an education. We call on you to immediately make your policy firm and clear by banning proctoring apps from your institution entirely.


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