February 18, 2015 -
Rutgers University’s recent implementation of ProctorTrack biometric software, which records face, knuckle and personal identification details during online courses, has been met with some backlash from students, according to a report by The Daily Targum.
Developed by Verificient Technologies, ProctorTrack keeps track of all activity in the monitor, browser, webcam and microphone” throughout each online session.
The software’s implementation across the University’s online courses went relatively unnoticed by most students until the course add-drop period had already ended.
When School of Arts and Sciences senior Betsy Chao found out about the software after the fact, she launched a change.org petition titled “Stop Use of ProctorTrack in Online Courses”.
In the petition, she criticized Rutgers for not providing any previous notice about the software’s installation and its $32 activation fee.
“Emails about mandating the use of ProctorTrack were sent out during the THIRD WEEK of classes,” Chao writes on the petition. “It was already too late to drop classes and so, students essentially have NO choice but to pay the fee.”
The university’s failure to alert students about the $32 activation fee during enrollment might be in breach of the federal Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, according to The Daily Targum report.
However, a Rutgers spokesperson said that the school “has put significant effort into protecting the privacy of online students,” and takes student privacy issues “very seriously”.
Verificient Technologies said the ProctorTrack software allows instructors to significantly restrict student computer access during sessions; for example, ProctorTrack can prevent students from using keyboard controls if an exam only requires the mouse and is able to block specific programs from opening during online courses.
But according to the report by The Daily Targum, ProctorTrack’s anti-cheating measures could pose serious privacy and security risks for Rutgers students.
For instance, the measures require students to record their facial features, knuckles and photo ID on camera, the potential lack of security in storing recorded student data, and the potential for stealing student identities or duplicating any private identification data displayed on camera.
According to Rutgers spokesperson E.J. Miranda, the Rutgers Center for Center for Online and Hybrid Learning and Instructional Technologies will oversee the implementation and compliance with the usage of ProctorTrack. She also said that contrary to public belief, use of ProctorTrack is not mandatory.
“ProctorTrack is one method, but COHLIT offers other options to students, faculty and departments for compliance with the federal requirements, such as Examity and ExamGuard,” said Miranda.