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Concerns about biometric online proctoring expressed by students in Australia, U.S. and Canada

Categories Biometrics News  |  Facial Recognition  |  Schools
Concerns about biometric online proctoring expressed by students in Australia, U.S. and Canada

University of Queensland students have reported disturbing incidents involving biometrics-based remote proctoring software used by the school to ensure the integrity of exams completed from home, the Brisbane Times reports.

Students with the UQ Faculty of Medicine allege that the use of ProctorU software is enabling privacy breaches, and the student union stated in April that the use of software to film students in their homes and allow the storage and commodification of their personal data is unacceptable. In private forums, according to Brisbane Times, students have suggested that between privacy concerns and inconsistent operation, which has included some exams allegedly starting late, or students’ time being cut short, extra stress has been placed on them.

In response to the concerns, the school said the majority of feedback about the proctoring software was positive, though an email from the Faculty of Medicine said the faculty was “acutely aware of the issues surrounding the end of semester examinations and ProctorU.” One student alleges that after receiving permission to take a bathroom break, the proctor began looking through private files on his or her computer.

The software uses facial biometrics to match students to their photo identification, and behavioral biometrics, along with webcam and microphone monitoring, to make sure students are taking their own exams.

According to the email from the medical school, discussions are being conducted with school authorities, and the company has been provided with feedback to enable it to conduct an investigation.

The implementation of ProctorU by UQ was fraught from the beginning, with students complaining that the system invades privacy back in April.

The University of Missouri has also received a complaint about privacy violations based on an online exam proctoring service, according to the Columbia Missourian. Junior Yousuf El-Jayyousi was initially concerned about an invasion of privacy from the requirement to show the room he would take the exam in through his computer’s webcam, but came to have other concerns after researching the service.

The professor recommended the student share his concerns with the UM System Office of eLearning.

UM uses Proctorio which applies facial detection and captures student ID, but does not use facial recognition, according to the report.

MU also uses Examity and ProctorU, according to a school spokesperson, and the Missourian notes that ProctorU’s privacy policy states it retains collected information “for as long as necessary.” A spokesperson for the university says UM’s contract with the proctoring services include stringent privacy requirements.

Reports like these may be fuelling mistrust in biometric remote proctoring technology elsewhere.

University of Ottawa has approved the use of tools for monitoring students online by professors to combat academic fraud, The Fulcrum reports.

Respondus LockDown Browser and Respondus Monitor have been okayed by the university, which has also published instructions for using them to conduct an exam. Students display their surroundings and student ID to Respondus, which performs biometric facial recognition to confirm the student’s identity.

A poll of 500 students by the vice dean of the school’s faculty of engineering found that both undergraduate and graduate students believe that academic fraud has increased since the pandemic began.

The article notes privacy concerns, however, from faculty and students about the difference between Canadian privacy laws and those in the U.S., where the company is based, and Respondus’ policy not guaranteeing that data such as recordings will not necessarily be deleted for up to a year after use. Other concerns expressed include how the suspicious behavior detection capability will handle students with attention disorders who may behave differently from other students.

Multiple petitions have been created calling for use of the software at U of O to be discontinued.

Indian startup launches online proctoring solution with facial recognition

Meanwhile in India, Admission24 has launched an online exam proctoring solution with facial recognition authentication for iOS and Android devices, India Education Diary reports.

The startup’s Online Exam Solution monitors where students are looking and whether they are interacting with people out of view, or if another face appears in the video feed, to detect anomalies and flag potential academic dishonesty. According to the article, the solution works even with limited connectivity, leveraging a combination of AI and human proctors.

The company has onboarded more than 160,000 students during the COVID-19 pandemic, and is supporting virtual classes for 250 educational institutions across India.

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