Proctorio: A Tool That Prevents Cheating or Spyware That Compromises Data Security?

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Jackson Kruse / The Loyalist

The Loyalist would like to thank the administration for its efforts to ease the stress on distanced learning and create a suitable environment that encourages resilience, dedication and creativity among its students.

Among the administrative efforts has been the schoolwide adoption of Proctorio, an anti-cheating software for virtual exams that seeks to ensure academic integrity while discouraging cheating. All students want to work in an environment rooted in fairness that will reward them with an authentic, unrounded grade this semester that is factored into one’s overall GPA. However, as data security continues to become a more prominent issue with technology companies, these efforts to maintain test security can backfire at the expense of the students’ privacy. 

The implementation of Proctorio should concern students given the pervasive data collection Proctorio employs. Proctorio states on their website that they are “never collecting data that [they]don’t need.” This Orweillian statement eerily resembles a direct quote from 1984—along the lines of “Big Brother is watching you.” Without specific details into what that required data entails, what are students supposed to believe? Is Proctorio collecting sensitive passwords and other information when students are using other websites?

In ensuring that students aren’t cheating during tests or quizzes, Proctorio has taken drastic measures like using a software to scan students’ rooms, track their eye movements and facial expressions, monitor body language using Artificial Intelligence and take control of students’ webcams, microphones and internet activity.

Although Proctorio argues that they are only collecting data when the application is activated and ensures that they do not sell information to third parties, claims of data protection should be met with immense skepticism. Companies have been caught lying about the selling of user data in the past. Proctorio should not receive any special treatment.

The rampant data collection in an online learning environment is discomforting. With the emphasis on synchronous learning, students are always on their computers, frequently surfing the Internet to complete various assignments or projects. The online schooling environment is creating a negative chilling effect on data privacy. Students are mindlessly agreeing to Terms of Service agreements in order to meet requirements for classes—their only alternative being failure. 

The desensitization of data privacy is concerning and startling. “Big Brother” will know everything about students. We understand the need for some monitoring by the administration to ensure academic integrity, but we are concerned that the use of Proctorio will compromise our privacy.

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