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Stop invasive online proctoring at University of London and provide a fair alternative

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We ask to stop invasive online proctoring at University of London and provide a fair alternative to students of Computing and Information Systems, Creative Computing, and Combined Degree Scheme computing (Minor) programme. The current set of conditions deviates from other programmes.

We ask to eliminate double standards, ensure the examination approach being equal across examinations for University of London programmes held in July-August this year.

April 8th, 2020, University of London announced that it will now assess all undergraduate Computing and Information Systems, Creative Computing, and Combined Degree Scheme computing (Minor) programmes through online examinations. University has explained such action as to "protect the integrity of the University of London academic award".

June 1st, 2020, University of London has first time revealed proctoring provider via email. Students had to complete online verification with Proctortrack, a third-party system of Verificient Technologies Inc., within 48 hours using in order to familiarize themselves with the online proctoring system prior to the examination, given distinct date and limited time period. Only from 1st of June students were able to review a full set of conditions they will need to provide consent in order to participate in examinations.

 

GDPR and exploitation of consent

1. Students were enforced to provide consent and accept Verificient Technologies, Inc.'s Terms & Conditions (Google cached page) in order to user the service:

"You agree that your use of the Verificient Services shall be at your sole risk. [...] To The Company makes no warranties or representations about the accuracy or completeness of the Verificient Website’s Content, the Content of any sites linked to the Verificient Website, or the Content of any of the Verificient Services, and assumes no liability or responsibility for any (i) errors, mistakes, or inaccuracies of Content, (ii) personal injury or property damage, of any nature whatsoever, resulting from your access to and use of the Verificient Services, (iii) any unauthorized access to or use of our secured servers and/or any and all personal information and/or financial information stored therein, (iv) any interruption or cessation of transmission to or from the Verificient Services, (v) any bugs, viruses, trojan horses, or the like which may be transmitted to or through the Verificient Services by any third party, and/or (vi) any errors or omissions in any Content or for any loss or damage of any kind incurred as a result of the use of any Content posted, emailed, transmitted, or otherwise made available via the Verificient Services."

Please also consider the circumstances, under which students are leaving their consent:

  • There has been no alternative provided that would not lead to below-listed circumstances. Such is effective for any student that is not providing consent
  • At the same time, there has been no binding legal agreement between university and students that would require privacy-breaching practices as necessary to successfully complete examinations. Also, doing so would enforce students to agree with invasive T&C of Verificient Technologies, Inc.

Please consider the set of consequences students face if consent is not given:

  • If not providing consent, students are faced with a considerable time loss, due to resulting consequence of being left with an opportunity to exams next year only
  • If not providing consent, students are faced with a considerable financial loss, as a result of already paid on-going university fees for the year
  • If not providing consent, students that are approaching BSc completion time limit of 8 years are faced with an increased risk of not being able to proceed with their BSc

Extract:

"Article 4 (11) of the GDPR stipulates that consent of the data subject means any: freely given,  specific, informed and unambiguous indication of the data subject's wishes by which he or she, by a statement or by a clear affirmative action, signifies agreement to the processing of personal data relating to him or her." (Source: Guidelines 05/2020 on consent under Regulation 2016/679, European Data Protection Board,  link)

Extract:

"12. The element “free” implies real choice and control for data subjects. As a general rule, the GDPR prescribes that if the data subject has no real choice, feels compelled to consent or will endure negative consequences if they do not consent, then consent will not be valid. If consent is bundled up as a non-negotiable part of terms and conditions it is presumed not to have been freely given. Accordingly, consent will not be considered to be free if the data subject is unable to refuse or withdraw his other consent without detriment. The notion of imbalance between the controller and the data subject is also taken into consideration by the GDPR." (Source: Guidelines 05/2020 on consent under Regulation 2016/679, European Data Protection Board, link)

 

2. The definition of integrity should be equal

As many University of London programmes are privileged from the use of invasive online proctoring service in order to participate in July-August examinations, it is clear that the use of such third-party service and their data collection is not necessary. We do not see students of Computing and Information Systems, Creative Computing, and Combined Degree Scheme computing (Minor) programmes being any different to students having an alternative examination within University of London.

Extract:

"22 Article 7(4) GDPR: “When assessing whether consent is freely given, utmost account shall be taken of whether, inter alia, the performance of a contract, including the provision of a service, is conditional on consent to the processing of personal data that is not necessary for the performance of that contract.” See also Recital 43 GDPR, that states: “[...] Consent is presumed not to be freely given if it does not allow separate consent to be given to different personal data processing operations despite it being appropriate in the individual case, or if the performance of a contract, including the provision of a service, is dependent on the consent, despite such consent not being necessary for such performance.” (Source: Guidelines 05/2020 on consent under Regulation 2016/679, European Data Protection Board, link)

 

3. Integrity, legitimate interest

Ensuring that students will not cheat can be seen as a legitimate interest, however, this should not enforce students to accept invasive third-party software and its Term and Conditions.

"Article 6 (f) Legitimate interests: the processing is necessary for your legitimate interests or the legitimate interests of a third party unless there is a good reason to protect the individual’s personal data which overrides those legitimate interests" (Information Commissioner’s Office, ‘Lawful basis for processing’, link)

 

Discrimination

In order for students not to face the above stated consequences given circumstances that are in control of University of London, students are enforced to comply with Proctotrack's requirements at students' expense, whether it is in a form of privacy, health or additional monetary expense.

From students not allowed to use restrooms, to advise to purchase a "suitable laptop" from staff in order to comply with third-party requirements, the fact of discrimination has been so far ignored.

To name a few:

  • Discrimination against students with only Linux
  • Discrimination against students with medical circumstances (IBS, OAB) by disallowing the use of restrooms
  • Discrimination against students with insufficient hardware or unreliable electricity infrastructure
  • Imposing an intrusive proctoring application with full access to sensitive personal information, a complete disregard for the privacy of the students
  • Failing to assist students to reclaim their already paid exam center fees
  • Failing to take into consideration a variety of individual situations (shared apartment space, lockdown, work duties, etc).
  • A large number of students reported crashes, bugs and generally a dysfunctional software when attempted the identity verification using the proctoring software

 

Cooperation

We want our feedback to be heard in order for students not to face consequences and concerns stated above.

As University of London is in the full control of circumstances, such consequences can be eliminated by providing a fair alternative that would not discriminate students of Computing and Information Systems, Creative Computing, and Combined Degree Scheme computing (Minor) programmes, by eliminating double standards, ensuring examination approach being equal across examinations for University of London programmes held in July-August this year.

There are a set of alternative cases that we as students are open to discuss:

  • Open-book exams
  • Alternative assignments, such as essay-writing, answering questions and elaborating on arguments that allow us to critically think about the content
  • Time-limited exams, in which students need to download an exam, take it, and upload it before a certain time. This can be followed up by professors taking a random sample of students and asking them about the content to make sure they knew what they filled out at the exam 

 

 

 



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