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Australian students fear exam platform threatens biometric data privacy

Australian students fear exam platform threatens biometric data privacy
 

Students from Australia’s University of Queensland fear their biometric data and privacy could be at risk due to a third-party exam proctoring platform, reports Brisbane Times.

The students have slammed the initiative to take exams remotely, due to social distancing measures, claiming the ProctorU software they would have to install on their personal computers is an invasion of privacy.

“We understand that these are unprecedented and difficult times, and that academic integrity is an important concern for both the University and UQU,” the student union said in a statement. “However, filming students in their homes and allowing third party corporations to store and commodify their personal data crosses the line.”

“UQU calls on the University to cease this practice immediately and provide a secure and accessible means for students to complete their exams.”

After downloading the software, students have to log in by providing their ID for the camera to analyze and match with biometric data. The platform then requests access to the camera, microphone, screen and keystrokes.

The data collected would allegedly be used only for the exam session and it would not be sold to other parties, says the privacy policy, however if the company is “involved in a bankruptcy, merger, acquisition, reorganization, or sale of assets,” the data would be at risk of being sold or transferred.

According to a university spokesperson, the platform was installed for final exams to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to staff and students, and the recording is available only for the exam. Students can also uninstall the software when they are finished with the exam. The university claims biometric and photo ID information are deleted within a week, lest there are errors with the identity matching element.

According to the contract the university signed with the software company, only “authorized UQ staff involved with maintaining academic integrity” would have access to data and recording.

“If students prefer not to use the software at home, or need to access a suitable computer, they can book a study space in the library to complete their exams,” the spokesperson said.

“They could also use any other suitable space with adequate internet where they can complete the exam without interruption. For students who are unable to locate a suitable environment, alternative assessments may be available.”

University of Sydney students have also complained about the same proctoring software they need to use.

According to UQ Union president Ethan Van Roo Douglas, students were not informed about this decision and now some are looking into dropping out. The Brisbane Times reports nearly 4,000 students signed a petition asking the university to come up with a better solution.

“Hundreds of students have approached UQU expressing their reservations about being forced to use the platform,” Van Roo Douglas told the Brisbane Times.

“We consider the use of this software to be a serious invasion of privacy and breach of students’ civil liberties.”

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