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Is Online Test-Monitoring Here to Stay?

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. (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. “I had to try to calm down,” he said. “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.

So I don’t know if it’s seeing things that aren’t there because of the pigment of my skin.” 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. 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.

“After I figured out nothing was going to change, I guess I got numb to it,” he said. He took several tests while displaced from his home by the winter storm that devastated Texas in February, which forced him to crash with a series of friends. Still, he managed to raise his grades back to pre-pandemic levels, even in classes that required Proctorio. Yemi-Ese’s grades dropped precipitously early in the pandemic, a problem he attributed in large part to Proctorio.

(The situation, in addition to its other challenges, deprived him of his usual light setup.) By the end of his senior year, Yemi-Ese was still struggling to get admitted to every Proctorio exam. 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. 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.

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